Study 1 - The Non-fan Exposure Study
(“Dr Frankenpony makes a Brony”)
465 (327 female & 138 male) college students from two colleges in the upstate of South Carolina and one college in Louisiana (note: only 1% of the students identified themselves as being a Brony and were excluded from the study).
1) All subjects completed an on-line survey measuring personality variables and gender stereotypes.
2) In a small group format, subjects were told about the Brony fandom and then they completed a survey asking for their initial reactions towards the Brony fandom and their thoughts about what motivate the Bronies.
3) Subjects then watched an episode of MLP:FiM (Flim-Flam episode) and rated how much they liked/disliked the episode, how they felt (emotionally) after watching the episode, the likelihood that they would watch MLP:FiM in the future and again rated what they thought motivated the Bronies.
Question: Who is more likely to watch MLP:FiM in the future after being exposed to an episode? (Note: only about 15% expressed a reasonably strong interest in watching MLP again, while 85% showed little of no interest in viewing MLP again)
The findings indicate that students who possess the following qualities and characteristics were more likely to watch MLP after watching an episode:
1) spend more time on the internet and play more video games
2) generally find the artwork and animation of cartoons to be important in capturing their interest
3) have lower Conscientious scores (less bound by rules and social convention)
4) have higher Neuroticism scores (tend to be more nervous and worried)
5) are more Open to New Experience
6) show a higher level of Trait Curiosity (generally more curious)
7) display higher levels of Absorption (ability to get lost and absorbed in experiences)
8) if they already know about MLP and Bronies(have already been exposed to the fandom)
9) display higher Positive Initial reactions to the Brony Fandom (lower Negative Reaction)
10) view the Bronies as being motivated by qualities of the show (the animation, the humor, etc.) and not by character features (being gay or immature) or problematic childhoods (playing with girl toys, not having a father)
11) rated the MLP:FiM episode as more positive and enjoyable
12) reported feeling more positive after viewing the episode
In conclusion, students who responded positively to the show displayed a unique set of personality features including : openness to new experiences, curiosity, and feeling less bound by social convention. They are also more experienced with the Internet, enjoy the artwork and animation of cartoons, and tend to become more absorbed/lost in engaging activities. In addition, they had a more positive view of the Brony fandom, even before they viewed the episode).
Given that the Brony Fandom is met with a constant barrage of negativity from non-fans (stereotyping) a second question was asked:
What influences a person’s reaction to the Brony fandom (positive or negative) and beliefs about what motivates the Brony Fandom?
The results indicated that:
Positive Reactions to the Fandom are influenced by:
1) the more a person knows about MLP and the Brony fandom (pre-exposure)
2) higher levels of Internet and video game usage
3) lower scores on traditional male gender roles (less gender stereotyped)
4) use humor in more positive (pro-social) ways
5) higher scores on trait curiosity and in the process of seeking life’s meaning
Negative views toward the motivation of the Brony Fandom are influenced by:
1) a stronger sense of meaning and purpose in their life(not seeking, but certain)
2) strong traditional male and female gender roles (strong gender stereotyping)
3) less (or no) knowledge of MLP and the Brony fandom
4) spend less time on the Internet and playing video games
Conclusions from the study results:
1) Exposing people to episodes of MLP does NOT automatically turn them into Bronies or fans of MLP
2) People who MAY develop into fans DISPLAY a distinct set of characteristics that correspond to a curious, open and less traditionally approach to life
3) Traditional Gender role stereotypes play a role in determining peoples initial negative reactions towards and negative beliefs about the fandom
4) Exposure to the MLP episode (stimulus) HAD a significant positive impact on people’s perceptions of what motivates the fandom as it tends to shift them away from a negative assessment of the Brony fandom’s motives (character flaws or negative early environment) toward viewing the Brony fandom’s motivation as being the qualities and nature of the show itself (animation, humor, etc.).
If you get people to watch MLP:FiM (exposure) they will likely NOT become a fan, however, they are likely to form a less negative (stereotyped) view of the fandom.
Study 2 – Fan and Former Fan Concerns
Subjects: 4370 Bronies and 218 Former Bronies completed the survey.
Procedure: An online survey was completed by the subjects. They were asked about their involvement in the Brony fandom and asked to rate various concerns (27 different items) about the “state of the herd.” The two groups (Fans and Former Fans) were compared on their answers to these items.
(Note of Thanks from Dr Psych Ology to the Facebook Brony groups who help him generate the initial list of concerns).
Groupings of the Concerns:
A factor analysis was conducted to reduce the 27 items down into a smaller and more concise number of concerns. It resulted in five factors (groups of concerns):
Factor 1 – Reactions toward Other Fans (too much drama, not putting words into actions, etc)
Factor 2 – Personal Functions of the Fandom (Loss of interest, no longer useful, etc.)
Factor 3 – Reactions toward Season 3 (frustration with the season length, direction of the storyline, etc)
Factor 4 – Reactions toward Fandom (embarrassment, fandom’s size, media attention, etc.)
Factor 5 – Changes within the Fandom (loss of fans, too few new fans, etc.)
Differences between the Groups: Levels of Concerns
Bronies Former Bronies Difference
Reactions toward Other Fans Medium High 18%**
Personal Functions of the Fandom Low Medium 10%
Reaction toward Season 3 Medium High 20%***
Reaction towards Fandom Low Medium 16%*
Changes within Fandom Low Low 2%
Initial Interpretation of the results: A review of the above table indicates that the while the active Bronies expressed some concerns (medium level) about other fan behaviors and features of season 3, it was the former fan group that found these same issues/concerns to be a significant contributor (high level of concern) to their leaving the fandom. While the fandom has no control over aspect of the MLP program (Hasbro are you listening) it can/could make an effort to call out and lower problematic (immature) fan behaviors which contribute in part to the loss of fans. The importance of the MLP program (seen in the concerns about season 3) likely helps to explain some of the overly dramatic responses displayed by fans towards changes in the show (Twilight as an alicorn). It has been our observation that many of the fans (and the fandom as a community) tend to pull back from these “the sky is falling/ the fandom is doomed” reactions when they take the time to give the changes a chance (Equestria Girls movie). It can be hoped that as the fandom continues to mature these overly dramatic responses will lessen and/or disappear entirely!
Additional Question: Are the Former Fans lost to the fandom?
What is the likelihood that you might return to the fandom? (answered by the Former Fans)
No, Lost forever - 19%
Unlikely - 42%
Possible - 32%
Yes, Definitely - 6%
What is the likelihood that you will watch season 4 of MLP:FiM? (answered by the Former Fans)
Won’t watch - 37%
Likely Will - 20%
Definitely Will - 43%
Conclusions we draw from our survey results:
1) Level of fan concerns DOES play a role in the loss of fans.
2) The Former Fan group was made up of a higher percentage of Independent (Hipster) and Mixed Bronies, whereas, the active Brony Fan group had more Social and Secret Bronies (these Bronies are drawn to the social and guidance aspects of the fandom). Therefore, some loss of “early fans” is to be expected as the nature of the fandom changes with growth and maturation. Also note: that the Independent/Hipster/ Renagade Bronies may at times be guilty of initiating negative, confrontational behavior that trigger the fan reactions they complain about!
3) Most of the former fans in this study left during or after season 3 of MLP:FiM
4) Former fans were particularly concerned with season 3 content and story lines, as well as problematic fan behaviors (drama and over -the-top fan behaviors) and changes to the fandom (growth and size).
5) However, close to 40% of the former fans might return to the fandom and over 60% of the former fans are likely to watch season 4 (give MLP:FiM another chance). Some of these self-described “former” fans may in fact represent seasonal/marginal fans who go dormant in the off season but return with the arrival of the new season.