Because furries spend a lot of time looking at fursuits and images of anthropomorphic characters in the fandom, we decided to test whether this experience provided them with the ability to better recognize and distinguish between these faces. Furries and non-furries (undergraduate psychology students) completed a computerized study where they saw pictures of 100 different faces—some human, some featuring furry characters, and some featuring fursuits. Then, later in the study, 50 of the faces were shown again, along with 50 new faces. For each face, participants were asked to indicate whether they had seen the face earlier in the study or not.1
The results revealed that furries and non-furries did not significantly differ with regard to recognizing human faces. When it came to furry faces and fursuit faces, however, furries outperformed non-furries. Interestingly, it appears that non-furries did about as well on furry/fursuit faces as they did on human faces. This suggests that the difference between furries and non-furries wasn’t driven by the fact that non-furries were bad at recognizing furry faces and fursuit faces (they still did well above chance, which would be 50%). Instead, the data suggest that furries are particularly good (and possibly motivated) to recognize furry faces and fursuits.
We tested whether this difference in performance was due to the fact that furries simply see more furry content and fursuits. Analysis showed that furries’ tendency to see more fursuits and more furry art accounted for at least some of the difference in performance between furries and non-furries on furry face and fursuit face recognition. Future research will attempt to not only replicate these findings, but test some of the other possible mechanisms underlying these findings, and the implications of these findings in other domains (e.g., regarding attitudes toward animals, recognition of animals, and humanization of non-human animals).