9.2 Fantasy Engagement

One of the IARP researchers, Dr. Plante, has been studying fantasy and its potential function in the everyday lives of people. Given that furries seem to lead very active fantasy lives (judging by the content of the fandom—walking, talking animals), he has assessed fantasy engagement in furries as compared to non-furries across a number of studies. These measures assess different aspects of “fantasy” as a concept, ranging from belief in supernatural/magical thinking (e.g., belief in premonitions about future events), ability to perspective-take and empathize (e.g., feel the pain of a character in a story), childhood (and current) experiences of fantasy behaviour and thoughts (e.g., having an imaginary friend as a child, having vivid daydreams), and engagement of fantasy within the context of the furry fandom (e.g., spending time thinking about furries, treating furry as a hobby/recreational activity). While a full recounting of these results has been generated elsewhere, they are too unwieldy to present in their entirety here. Instead, interesting highlights from this research are presented below.

— In general, the more strongly a person identifies as furry, the more they engage in fantasy, including more magical thinking, more childhood (and current) fantasy experiences, and greater engagement in fantasy activities.1

— Although furries engage in more fantasy than non-furries in general, the difference is limited to healthy fantasy engagement (e.g., for recreation, creative, or social purposes, to a non-pathological extent). In contrast, furries do not differ from non-furries in the extent to which they engage in more pathological (e.g., escapist, obsessive, delusional) forms of fantasy.

— Furries were equally as good as non-furries at distinguishing fantasy from reality, suggesting that while furries engage in more fantasy than non-furries, it is not due to an inability to distinguish between the two. 2

— Furries have more vivid mental images and are more likely to experience hallucinations than non-furries. 3

— As the figure below, which assesses the frequency with which participants engage in fantasy activities (1 = almost never to 7 = several times a day), reveals, that furries engage in a level of fantasy that’s comparable to members of other fan groups (e.g., convention-going anime fans).

Chart: Fantasy engagement by fandom

Taken together, these data suggest that furries may have particularly active, vivid, and magical mental worlds, and that such factors may contribute to (or be caused by) the extent to which a person identifies themselves as furry. Many of these items are often thought of with regard to psychological dysfunction (e.g., belief in magic or overly vivid mental imagery may be associated with delusion). That said, the lack of relationship between being a furry and psychological dysfunction4 suggests otherwise, however: despite having particularly active, somewhat aberrant, vivid, and fantastical mental worlds, furries nonetheless seem as well-adjusted as others in the general population. To put it another way: while furries may be distinct for having vivid fantasy lives, they are not dysfunctional for it.


  1. See Furry Fiesta 2012 and International Online Survey III; Furry Fiesta 2012 and International Online Survey III
  2. Furry Fiesta 2013 Study
  3. Anthrocon 2013 Study
  4. See 11.2 Psychological Conditions

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