BRONY STUDY (Research Project)

How the Fandom Changed My Life Data

How the Fandom Changed My Life Survey (Initial results) 

The following represents an analysis of the 1600 Bronies (Mean age= 21 years old;

82% were males; 68% from N. America, 23% from Europe; 34% in High School and

26% in college) who initially completed the survey, and were asked to rate the

presence of various emotions and behaviors before and after they joined the fandom. 

A)   Emotions and Feelings: Numbers are the percentage of the sample who reported
either an improvement or a worsening after becoming a member of the fandom.
SCALE                                            Improvement       Worse
Happiness Scale                                     58%                12%
Depression Scale                                    56%                12%
QLS Emotions Subscale*                        55%                  8%

Anxiety Scale                                          50%                11%       

* The Quality of Life Scale has three subscales 
a)  Clearly fans as a group report improved emotional states after joining the fandom, with half
or more reporting overall improvement. These improvements might be affected by an increased
level of self-acceptance and social support many fans report experiencing. Our previous research
has revealed that establishing friendships and finding guidance and meaning were rated as the
most important aspects of the fan community (fandom) both of which are likely to yield overall
positive feelings.

 b) Clearly some fans do not experience improvement, but instead report a worsening of
symptomsThis could be a product of life events outside of the individuals ‘fan experience’
or that the experience of the fandom leads to greater feelings of isolation (“I don’t even fit
in here!”) and/or more negative responses (e.g., bullying) by others in their social

 c) It is important to note that both the improvement and worsening of these emotional
states are impacted by external factors (e.g., stressful life events, the social environments
response to the fandom) and internal factors (e.g., personality traits like neuroticism,
a history of previous psychological problems, need to bully and/or shock others) both of
which have nothing to do with the fandom as a group, but would modify and/or enhance
both positive and negative aspects of the fan’s response to the fandom. 
B)    Behaviors and Actions: Numbers are the percentage of the sample who reported 
either an improvement or worsening after becoming a member of the fandom.
SCALE                                            Improvement     Worse
Pro-social Behavior Scale                      65%               11%
Social Avoidance Scale                          56%                 6%
QLS Get Along with Others            
          Subscale*                                     30%                  8%
QLS Work and School           
          Subscale*                                     24%                12% 
a)  As a group the fans reported improvement in their behaviors towards other
people (e.g., more volunteering and offering help, less avoidance of social situations,
and increased ability to ‘get along’ with others).

 b) Almost 2/3 of the fans reported an increase in their pro-social behaviors (offering
help, assistance and encouragement in various forms to others). These behaviors would
have a tendency to conform with and reinforce the perception of the Brony fandom as a
positive supportive social group.

 c)  The fans also completed a Discrimination Scale that measured the level of unfair
behaviors (from negative taunts to physical bullying) experienced by them both before
and after joining the fandom. The results revealed that 44% reported an improvement
(decrease) in such experiences, while 15% reported an increase (worsen) of these
behaviors by others. It can be hypothesized that the fans are making positive use of the
increased social support offered by the fandom and may be changing their responses to
such discriminating behaviors which might lead to a lessening of the behavior for most      
fan (clearly for some being a fan may have made them even more of a target). 
Some Summary Thoughts: 
1) The fact that emotions and feelings displayed a greater improvement than actions and
behaviors fit with our experience as therapists, for it is easier to change one's feelings and
reactions than it is to quickly change one's behavior. Also note that both social
avoidance and pro-social behaviors have a strong emotional component as well as a
behavioral one, you have to want to face your fears and decide that acting differently
towards others is important before you will confront social situations and reach out to
help others.

 2) These results point to the level of support and positive change associated with the
fandom as features of this fandom that may draw members into it. If they take
the initial risk to overcome the negative stereotypes that color people’s initial reactions
to the ‘Brony Phenomenon.’ In addition, people who are by their nature upbeat and positive
(think of Pinkie Pie) or in need of a safe place to express and explore (think of Fluttershy)
would naturally be drawn to a fandom with these features.

 2) We would be remiss if we did not mention one of the weakness of our study design.
All of our Bronies were recruited by advertising on popular Brony websites (Equestria Daily,
Facebook Brony pages, etc.) as such we likely have a dedicated and motivated sample. It is
possible that more distressed and troubled Bronies do not visit these sites or chose to not
take part in our survey. We can address this issue somewhat by separating our sample into
subjects who report having received psychological attention (therapy, diagnosis, medication)
in the past and those subject who did not.   
C) Preexisting Conditions Analysis 

All of the subjects were asked to indicate if they had ever visited a psychiatrist,

psychologist or social worker and if they had been given a diagnosis. This information

was used to divide the sample into two groups: a Diagnosis Group (DG) and a

No Diagnosis Group (NDG). 
Percentage of Sample with and without a Diagnosis (out of 1597 subjects) 
No diagnosis –   1071  (66.8% of responses) 
Diagnosis –           526  (33.2% of responses) 
Frequency of top four Diagnoses within the Diagnosis Group 
Depression – 28.3% 
ADHD/ADD – 23.3% 
Anxiety – 22% 
Asperger’s – 14.6% 
Comparison of the Groups on Emotions and Behaviors Scales 
1) The Diagnosis Group reported significantly higher levels of depression, anxiety and
social avoidanceand lower levels of happiness, and abilities to get along with others
BEFORE becoming fans (in comparison to the No Diagnosis Group).

2) Both groups displayed a cross the board improvement in all of the variables after becoming
a fan. In addition, on the variables of depression, anxiety and work and school performance
the Diagnosis Group displayed a significantly bigger improvement. This was most likely a
product of the fact that they had higher scores to start with (more depression and anxiety) and
therefore had more room for improvement. It is interesting to note that the Diagnosis Group’s
scores AFTER becoming a fan matched or were slightly better than the No Diagnosis Group
BEFORE becoming a fan.

3) Some people might find that having 1/3 of the Bronies reporting pre-existing conditions
seem like a high percentage. However, several points would seem to argue against this
position. First, research has consistently found that 1:3 to 1:4 people are often struggling
with issues of depression and anxiety (depression is often called the ‘common cold’ of
mental conditions). Secondly, given the average age of the Brony fandom, adolescent and
young adults, these are groups that are often struggling with issue of identity and intimacy
(social relationships) a ratio of 1:3 is not surprising. In addition, Bronies were recruited to
share their experiences of how the fandom had changed their lives. As we already see in
the results, those who carry a diagnosis are more likely to experience significant change
and would be more likely to take part in the study to share the news of this improvement.
Perhaps Bronies who had little change to report (more likely to be in the No Diagnosis
group) chose to not participate.

 4) These results further reinforce the perception of the positive and supportive environment
that the fandom represents for many individuals who are in need of such environments.
However, it leaves unanswered the question of why for some fan their struggles (with
negative emotions and social interactions) may worsen after joining the fandom. 
5) It is important in closing to mention a second weakness of our study design. All of our
subjects were asked to retrospectively remember (and report) their level of emotions and
behaviors BEFORE they had become a fan. It is an established fact, within the field of
Psychology (supported by memory and cognition research) that current emotional states
(positive or negative) influence/color our memories of earlier experiences. This raises a
serious ‘validity’ question concerning the ‘true level’ of their pre-fandom emotions and
behaviors. This is a difficult problem to overcome as it is impractical (almost impossible)
to measure individuals BEFORE they become fans. We can neither predict future 
membership that well or secure enough non-fan subjects to conduct such an analysis.
While this represents a research validity problem, it also represents a favorable/positive
outcome if you take a therapeutic perspective. As therapists (Dr. Edwards and Redden
both concur) that the goal of therapy is that a person develop and report improvements
in their mood (affect and emotions) and their behaviors. We would never try to argue with
a person that they are ‘not really happy.’ Feeling better, having a new positive outlook on
life and acting accordingly are all goals of therapy and represent positive growth. What
represents a ‘headache’ for a researcher, represents a favorable outcome to a therapist
(and to a parent who is concerned about the mental health of their son or daughter).

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