BRONY STUDY (Research Project)

Study Results



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Goals of our Survey:
1) Describe the Brony Community (Fandom)                                     
2) Contrast the Bronies versus the Non-Bronies on demographic and personality variables                                    
3) Provide information that might confirm or disconfirm myths/beliefs about the Brony Community (Fandom)                                          
4) Look for Types of Bronies and differences between these Types

Demographics: Who are our Bronies? 
1)    Age: Ranged from 14 to 57, average age was 21 years old.(Note: due to IRB consideration only subjects who were 17 years of age or older were used in the following analyses)
2)    Gender: 86% of the Bronies were males.
3)    Education Level: 35.2% of the Bronies were in High School, while 62% of the Bronies were in or had completed college.
4)    Location: 69% were from North America, with 22% from Europe and 5% from down under.
5)    Employment:70% of the Bronies were full or part-time students, while 32.7% had full or part-time employment.
6)    Sexual Orientation: 84% of the Bronies described themselves as heterosexual, 1.7% described themselves as homosexual, 10.3% described themselves as Bisexual and 3.8% as Asexual.
7)    Marital Status: 96.4% of the Bronies were single and 2.9% were married.
8)    Dating: 22.4% of the Bronies had No Interest in dating, 60.9% were interested but not dating, 10.5% occasionally dated, and 6.3% frequently dated. 
Please Note: As some subjects left demographic data blank the percentages do not always add up to 100%.  In addition, on some items subjects endorsed more than one response. 

Comparison of Bronies versus Non-Bronies 
Note: Because it was difficult to recruit Non-Bronies to complete the survey we had almost 8x more Bronies than Non-Bronies.  This made a direct comparison of the two groups statistically problematic.  For this reason we used a Yoked Group process. In addition, since the majority of Bronies are male these comparisons were made using only male subjects. (Please note that separate analyses will be conducted using the female subjects and reported at a later time.)
Group Formation. In order to compare and contrast the two groups each Non-Brony male subject was randomly matched (yoked) to a Brony male subject on the dimensions of Age, Education level and home region in the world.  This combined data set consisted of 648 subjects (mean age = 22.35; 27.5% were in or had completed High School, 41.2% were currently in college, and 27.7%  had completed college; 76.5% were from North America, 16.1% from Europe, 3.7% from Australia).  

Comparisons of the Groups.   
Demographics.  No significant differences existed between the two groups (using Chi-square tests) for level of education, the region of the world in which they reside, their employment statue or their self-identified sexual orientation. However, a significant difference existed between the groups for Marital Status, with 96.9% of the Brony versus 91.9% of the Non-Brony subjects being single.  A difference also existed between the groups for Dating Behaviors, indicating that the Brony subjects displayed a lower general interest in dating and fewer of this group dated “frequently.” 
Conclusion: With the exception of the fact that a lower percentage of the Bronies were married and that they were less interested in and less likely to date. There were no difference between the Bronies and Non-Bronies for employment status or sexual orientation.  It is important to note that two persistent myths (negative attributions) about the Brony Community involve the belief that they are largely unemployed and predominately gay.    
Fan Behaviors. Several items on the survey assessed each participant’s identification as a fan and their general involvement in various different fan groups.  Subjects were asked to rate the presence in their life of various fan activities (e.g., sports, video games, movies, etc.) and their personal level of fan interest.  The analysis revealed that while the Brony participants rated themselves as slightly stronger fans and were interested in slightly more fan groups these differences did not reach a significant level.   
Conclusion: That the Bronies in our study do not represent a group of “joiners” who seek to be members of a large number of different fan groups.  

Personality Measures. A series of analyses (ANOVAs) compared the groups on nine personality variables. A review of Table 1 reveals significant differences between the groups on Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism.  Indicating that the Brony group was more Introverted, more Agreeable, and less Neurotic, than Non-Brony subjects. Furthermore, the analysis revealed that while the Brony participants displayed a higher Absorption score it fell just short of representing a significance difference.  In addition, there were no significant differences between the groups on the three Personal Attribute Scale scores.                                                                  
Table 1                                                    
Personality Measures                          Difference between Brony and Non-Brony Variable
Brief definition__________________________________________                                                                            
Extraversion
outgoing and energetic                           
Seek stimulation in the                                      Non-Bronies = higher scores*                             
Of others   
Agreeableness
friendly and compassionate                             
Seek harmony with others                                    Bronies = higher score***                             
More optimistic                                    
Conscientious
pays close attention to                                
Social rules and expectations                               No differences                                                              
Neuroticism
a tendency to experience negative                            
Emotions like anger and anxiety                   Non-Bronies = higher scores**                                       
 Openness
 interest in new experiences and                       
Unique ideas, curiosity                                             No differences                                                      
Absorption
ability to become absorbed in                           
“lost in” experiences like                                      Bronies = higher scores                          
Art, music and nature                                                                         
PAQ-Agency
independent, active, self-confident                            
 Associated more with traditional                        No differences                            
Male stereotype                                           
PAQ-Communion -
emotional, devoted to others,                                      
Gentle and kind                                                         No differences                                     
Associated more with                                                                
Traditional female stereotype
PAQ-Emotional Vulnerability
increased likelihood                                                         
To experience                                                             No differences                                                             
Anxiety, with                                                                                    
Poor coping skills
__________________________________________________________________
*p<.05, **p<.01, ***p<.001 (more asterisks the greater the statistical difference) 
A number of conclusions can be drawn from these results, they include the following.
a)     The Bronies as a group appear to be more introverted (less extraverted), indicating that they are somewhat less socially outgoing and may prefer smaller circles of friends versus large groups of strangers.  The presence of higher Introversion might also help to account of the Bronies’ over all lower interest in dating.  Please note that this pertains only to the Bronies as a group!  Subgroups of Bronies appear to display higher levels of Extraversion.
b)    Given the MLP theme of “Love and Tolerance” it is not surprising that the Bronies scored significantly higher on the measure of Agreeableness (wanting to “just get along” with others).  In addition, many Bronies report that the positive “feelings” generated by the show represents an important reason for their interest in the show.  These feelings and their general agreeableness may help to explain why they become fans.
c)     The Bronies displayed a higher level of the personality trait Absorption, which relates to a person’s ability to become “fully engaged” in experiences.  Individual high in this trait often prefer to become “drawn into/absorbed” in music, movies and the beauty of nature.  Many Bronies describe that it is the quality of the animation, the humor and action of the MLP shows that keep them coming back to the series. This tendency towards Absorption may help to explain their attraction.
d)    It is important to note that the Bronies displayed a lower level of Neuroticism, which means that they are likely to report generally lower levels of anxiety and stress in their lives. This result when added to the lack of any differences on the PAQ-Emotional Vulnerability scale would appear to directly challenge the validity of the often repeated myth about Bronies displaying problematic levels of mental health problems (like depression and anxiety).  Whether this score relates to their general optimistic nature and/or is in part a positive reaction to being a Brony is unclear at this time!
e)     While there were no differences between the groups on the PAS scores, this lack of findings is in itself significant.  The PAS scale was originally designed to judge a person’s adherence to standard stereotypical male and female attributes/roles.  Many Non-Bronies attribute the Bronys’ motivation (interest in MLP) to issues of character (e.g., They are not masculine.) or upbringing (e.g., They didn’t have a father figure. They didn’t play with boy toys.)  However, the results indicate that the Bronies were neither higher with respect to female stereotype attitudes nor lower with respect to male stereotype attitudes.

Initial Reactions. In order to compare the two groups for their initial reaction to the Brony Phenomenon an analysis (Anova) was conducted contrasting the two groups on the three initial reaction scores. A review of this table reveals that the Brony group scored significantly higher on the Positive Reactionlower on the Negative Reaction  and higher on the Not A Joke Reaction Score.  It is important to note that a review of the scores revealed that both groups had higher positive than negative initial reactions whereas for the Non-Brony group the Not A Joke score was their highest.
                                                                      Table 2                                                      
Initial Reaction Scores                    Difference between Brony and Non-Brony                  
Variable__________________________________________                                          
Positive Reaction                     Brony = 3x higher scores ***                          
Negative Reaction                   Non-Brony = 3x higher scores ***                          
Not A Joke Reaction                Brony = higher scores ***                    
_________________________________________________                   
Asterisks indicate statistical significant differences.        
Conclusions: These results are intriguing on several levels: 
a)     They indicate that individuals who would eventually become Bronies were more reactive in a positive way to MLP when they were first introduced to it and were less likely to questioned whether the existence of Bronies was “A joke”. These results might be accounted for by a strong attraction to the qualities of the show combined with the Bronies personality traits (Agreeableness and Absorption) and also may explain the strong “can this be happening to me? “reaction that many Bronies report almost like a “conversion” into the Brony Community (Fandom).
b)   While the Bronies as a group were initially more highly reactive than the Non-Bronies their positive reaction predominated, whereas, while the Non-Bronies were less reactive it was in a more negative direction.  This fits the reports of many Bronies that they “returned” to view MLP at a later time after their initial exposure or after encouragement by friends.  Whereas, it is likely that the Non-Bronies may not return because of their stronger negative first impression. 
Please note: There is a potential confound (problematic factor) with the Bronies initial reaction scores. The Brony subjects (who were already members of the fandom) were asked to “think back” to their initial feelings and experiences.  It is possible that their memory of their initial reactions were influenced (changed) by their subsequent experience of “being a Brony.”  

The Brony Fandom: Interest in and Approach towards MLP:FiM 
Reducing the Data: One of the central components of this study was the 100+ item survey that assessed various categories of fan behaviors and feelings towards MLP:FiM within the Brony Community (Fandom).  A series of Factor Analyses were used to reduce the survey information down to 14 factors (scale scores). The following list includes the categories and the resulting Scale/Factor names:    
1)    Show Experience (2 factors): Feelings Generated and/or Show Qualities
2)    Fan Behaviors (4 factors): Engaged, Visible, Dedicated, Rerun
3)    Identity as a Brony (2 factors): Public ID and/or Feeling Special
4)    Social Interactions with others (3 factors): Peer Positive, Family Involvement, Isolated Negative
5)    Moral Aspects (2 factors): Guidance and/or Faith
6)    Virtues (1 factor): Virtues Expressed 
Reducing the Data Further: As a result of the above mentioned analyses, scales scores were computed for all Brony subjects. However, in order to reduce the data further and aid our effort to identify Types of Bronies, a second Factor Analysis was conducted (a second order analysis).  This analysis yielded two general patterns of Brony fan behavior.  As a result of this analysis a score was computed for each Brony for each pattern. The two patterns were: 
1)    The Social Fan Pattern (45.6% of the variance) The largest and strongest pattern, a high score on this factor was associated with both of the Moral aspects described as Faith and Guidance which indicates an interest in the show and its moral message that may reach an almost religious fever and depth of conviction.  A high score on this factor indicated that all four of the Fan Behavior factors (Engaged, Rerun, Dedicated and Visible) were important.  Such an individual would appear to be a highly social, dedicated and an openly visible Brony. In addition, individuals with high scores appear to feel special (SpecialID) about their inclusion in the Brony community and they reportedly find the feelings generated by MLP (ShowFeel) to be more important than the appearance or action of the show (ShowQual).   
2)    The Isolated Fan Pattern  (10.3% of the variance)  A smaller pattern, individuals scoring high on this factor stand out because of their sense of isolation from the more social members of the Brony community (high Isolated Negative). They are unable to share their interest with family and friends (low Family Involvement) and do not display public or visible signs of their interest in MLP (low PublicID and low Visible Fan).  Individuals with high scores may not feel comfortable or safe even with other Bronies. 
Conclusions:
a)     The Social Fan Pattern Score appears to be related to the fandom (group membership) serving both a strong Social Function (expanding friendship networks and connecting with new people) and a strong Guidance Function (helps an individual make moral choices).  The social function is in part made possible by the dominating “online” aspects of the Brony Fan Community.  The guidance function, while unusual for a cartoon fandom, is understandable given the “Love and Tolerance” theme and the “parable like” moral messages of the show.
b)    Clearly someone with a high score on the Isolated Fan Pattern Score not only feels isolated from other Bronies, but is unwilling and/or unable to share their “Bronyhood” with others.  This secretiveness may be related to a need for social safety due to a non-supportive social environment (i.e., family, friends and coworkers who would not be accepting) and possibly personality features like Introversion.

Creating a Typology for the Brony Fandom: In order to identify potential types of Bronies each subject’s Social and Isolated score was classified as High, Medium or Low.  Individuals could then be placed into one of the Five Types of Brony Fans based upon these two scores.  See figure below:
                                                   Social Fan Pattern
                                          High            Medium           Low
                       Low          Social                     Independent
Isolated           
Fan              Medium                           Mixed
Pattern
                      High         Secret                        Hidden
Description of the Characteristics of the Types of Bronies: The following paragraphs represent brief descriptions of each type of Brony.  The percentages listed are estimates of the percent of the Brony Community that fall into each type.  These percentages were derived from self-report data supplied by the Bronies in our second survey (not yet fully analyzed as the data collection continues).  These Bronies (over 11,000 individuals) were asked to identify themselves as one of the five types of Bronies.

                Social Brony (29% of Bronies)           
Receive a strong sense of moral guidance from MLP.  Are dedicated and engaged fans and are publically open about their “Bronyhood.”  Their initial reactions were positive and they were often turned onto MLP by family and friends. With respect to personality they are strongly Extraverted (outgoing and social), open to new experiences (Openness), become deeply involved and “lost in” experiences (Absorption) and describe themselves as self-directed, reliable and careful (Conscientiousness).
* Perhaps best represented by Pinkie Pie, fun loving, friendly and expressive (except for the conscientiousness part!)

                            Secret Brony (28% of Bronies)          
Receive a strong sense of moral guidance from MLP.  Are dedicated and engaged fans, however, they do not share their “Bronyhood” with family and friends.  Their initial reactions were more negative and they tended to discovered MLP by accident. With respect to personality they were more Introverted (prefer more solitary activities and small groups of intimate friends). However, they also describe themselves as  personable and caring, they desire positive social interactions, and like to “fit in” (Agreeableness).
* Perhaps best represented by Mare do well, dedicated, engaged and caring, but secret about their identity.

                     Independent Brony (7% of Bronies)
Do not display dedicated and engaged fan behaviors (not seeking positive            
social interactions with other Bronies).  They find and seek little guidance           
from MLP and are very Open about their “Bronyhood” with family, friends           
and strangers. Their initial reaction to MLP were negative and were directed          
to it by friends.  With respect to personality they were strongly Extraverted          
(outgoing and social they enjoy people’s company) and tend to not care          
what other people think and feel (Low Agreeableness) May enjoy the “shock          
value” of being a Brony!         
* Perhaps best represented by Johnny Hoof, independent, outgoing
   and definitely a “Hipster!”

                     Hidden Bronies (8% of the Bronies)
  Do not display dedicated and engaged fan behaviors (few outward signs).
  They are not deeply engaged in the Brony Community and find little
  guidance from MLP.  They are unable or unwilling to share their
  “Bronyhood” with family and friends and tend to discovered MLP by
  accident.  With respect to personality they are More Introverted (prefer
  solitary activities, small group of intimate friends) and are cautious about
  new experiences.  They reported become less absorbed in experiences (Low
  Absorption) and are less goal directed and more laid back (Low
  Conscientiousness).
  * Perhaps best represented by the “shadow behind the screen,” a mystery!
     They hide most likely out of a concern for safety and do not come out
                even for other Bronies.

                   Mixed Bronies (28% of the Bronies)         
The hardest to pin point, they represents a blend or mixture of two or more             
of the other types. These Bronies report that their interest in MLP and their          
actions (whether in secret or in public) seem to “depend on the situation I          
find myself in.”  They may be known as a Brony to some friends while staying          
hidden from family and classmates.  They may have a number of different          
fan interests (other fandoms) and MLP is just one of them.  They may not be          
necessarily introverted or extraverted and are likely not overly concerned          
with fitting in and getting along with others.  They may be involved with the          
Brony Fan Community, but are not likely to take a “lead the discussion” kind          
of role.         
* Perhaps no specific image represents this group, or perhaps               
all of the images in some ways represents this group!

Final Conclusions:
1) While the Brony Fan Community represents a diverse group of individuals, several factors appear to explain some of the variation/ diversity in the fans interests and behaviors: 
a) Personality traits – especially Extraversion, Absorption, Agreeableness and Conscientious.  These differences may be most important in helping us understand the motivation for and function of Brony behavior. 
b) The openness of individual Bronies social situations (family, friends, community) to interests (like MLP:FiM) that are different and unique.  These differences may be most important in helping us understanding the safety needs of the Secret and Hidden Bronies. 
c) The resources and connect ability of the Internet.  The very existence of the Brony Fan Community would appear to be predicated (dependent upon) the “connectedness” provided by the internet. There very likely would be no Brony Community without it! 
2)  How is the Brony Community like other “Avid Fan” groups?    
a) It serves a Social function (for most Bronies) of connecting them with other fans outside of their geographic location. (This varies based upon their openness to telling others)    
b) It serves as an activity that the fan can focus on  (maybe a small thing or a central focus) that provides a sense of meaning to the fans lives (It fills their  day and/or gives them a sense of purpose)  
3) How is the Brony Fan Community unlike (different from) most other     
“Avid Fan” groups? 
a)     The object of interest (MLP:FiM) is a non-stereotypic interest for the general fan base. Males and adults who like a cartoon associated with a young female population (stereotypic female toy/cartoon).  This feature of the fandom likely explains the variety of shocked (It’s a joke… right!) and hostile reactions directed at the Brony community by the “haters” and the “uninformed.”  Anyone who does not take the time to look beyond this feature (>>>FOX News<<<) will likely miss the true nature of the community and likely spread misinformation about “who are the Bronies” and what motivates them!
b)    MLP presents a highly moral and virtuous message allowing it to serve a Guidance function (for many Bronies).  This is likely to be the least recognized feature of the Brony phenomenon, but may also represent one of the Brony Fan Community’s greatest strengths and potential contributions to emerging web based fan communities.  If individuals are going to surf the web and interact on social sites, why not on sites and with people who believe and try to live a theme of Love and Tolerance?
We often ask parents the question: “Which would you rather have your teen doing?  Watching a group of humorous and highly pro-social (moral) ponies, or playing video games where they beat up, torment, kill and murder other creatures (even if they are zombie, orcs or gang members)?  We do realize that many Bronies take part in this video game mayhem; however, it appears that MLP may act as a balancing force in their lives. Please note that the positive guidance aspect of the phenomenon may evoke ridicule and hostility from some individuals (and groups) who feel that religion (sacred scripture) is the ONLY valid source of moral guidance, and that statements like WWPD (What would a pony do?) border on blasphemy.
4)   The medium of MLP allows for a great deal of artistic expression and personalization of one’s Brony identity. The Brony Fandom shares this characteristic with numerous other internet fandoms.  Being based on an animated cartoon series in the internet age (with video, sound and photo editing program readily available) provides a rich source of material for creative expression.  This can be seen in the proliferation of pony video clips, pony music, pony fan fiction, and personalized pony avatars.  The more extensive the creative/artistic expression the more likely it is that individual fans will find a niche or place in the community that “speaks to them.”

In Closing:
1)    We (Drs Edwards and Redden) would like to once again thank all of the Bronies and Non-Bronies who have taken part in the Brony Study and who have waited with patience for these results to be posted!  The response of the Brony Fan Community has been profoundly positive and continues (remember the second survey data collection is still underway) to provide us with important and valuable insights into not only the Brony Community but also emerging fandoms in general. 
2)    The first of two manuscripts based upon the Survey1 data is in final preparation and is entitled: The Brony Phenomenon: Reactions to and Characteristics of and Emerging Internet Fandom.  In it we are challenging social science researchers (our colleagues) to look past the non-stereotypic interest of the fandom and recognize the pro-social guidance functions that the fandom serves for its members. If the Brony Community is to receive the recognition and acceptance it deserves psychological and sociological researchers need to get past the snickers and looks of disbelief to recognize the importance of this emerging movement.  Eventually, we hope to promote a deeper understanding and acceptance within the academic research community for the Brony Community. Besides… we have heard rumors of a mysterious prediction… that one day a great leader would arise from within the herd… a leader who would change the web world by preaching a message of love and tolerance! 
3)    We have received a few comments from individuals which are critical of our research instrument (the questions on the surveys), the way we are collecting data and recruiting subjects (over the internet) and the conclusions we have drawn from the data.  We appreciate and are grateful for all of the feedback, positive as well as negative.  We also recognize that, as with any research undertaking, there are always short comings (other questions you could ask, other methods of data collection, other recruitment procedures).  We want to assure you that we will continue to do the best we can, with the resources available to us, to ensure that our results are relevant and useful.  It is our hope that other researchers will follow our lead, expand on and exceed our efforts!  Being the “first to investigate” means you are not following someone’s paved and marked path, but making your own! 
4)    Finally, we would like to thank a few of the many Bronies and Non-Bronies who have helped us reach this point in our study.  Thanks to the staff of the BroNYcon 2012 (Jarek in particular) for allowing us to share our initial results.  Thanks to the Southeastern Brony Group, the South Carolina Brony Group and the Bronies Fan Group on Facebook for your support, thanks to the Ponyville and Equestria Daily staff for their help in “spreading the word” about the surveys.  Special thanks to Will, Conner, Nick, Charlie, James, Daniel, and all of the other Bronies who have shared their experiences and joy with us. A final heartfelt thanks goes out to our family members especially our spouses… for putting up with our obsessive need to talk about Bronies… early in the morning, late at night, with friends and strangers… it will end someday… or will it?… :o)

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