Given that fursonas are generally thought of as “idealized” versions of the self,1 and given that some traits associated with predators (e.g., assertiveness, strength) may be desirable, we were interested in testing whether furries were more likely to choose predator species over prey species for their fursonas. Rather than classifying the species ourselves, we asked participants to indicate whether they considered their fursona species to be a predator, prey, both, or neither. The results are presented in the table below.2
Classification of Fursona Species as Predator or Prey
Predator species were nearly five times more common than prey species were among fursonas. The distinction was even more pronounced among therians and otherkin (see Section 7 for more information about therians). We then tested whether people with predator or prey species differed in personality: furries whose fursonas were predator species were significantly more extroverted than those whose fursonas were prey species. This suggests that there may be an association between fursona species and personality.3
In another study,4 we tested a hypothesis submitted to us by a furry: because predator species attack prey species in real life, and because there are some personality differences between people with prey and predator fursonas, are furries with predator fursonas more likely to bully or attack furries with prey species? To test this, we asked participants in one study whether they considered their fursona to be a predator, prey, both, or neither. We then compared the responses of the “predator only” participants to the “prey” only participants, specifically with regard to questions that had to do with being bullied and bullying others in the fandom. Analyses found that there are no significant differences in the extent to which predator and prey furries are harassed or harass others because of their fursona species.5 They did not differ in their expectations for how predators or prey are expected to act, nor was either group more likely to believe that people should be treated differently because of their fursona species. The only notable difference in attitudes between predator and prey species was that predators were more likely than prey to say that if a person doesn’t like how they’re treated because of their species, they should choose a different species. It should be noted, however, that even though predators agreed with this statement more than prey, both groups still overwhelmingly disagreed with this statement.
Building on previous studies, we used an existing psychological scale used to assess predator / prey identification developed for use in non-furry samples. We also assessed other variables associated with a predator/prey mentality, including aggression, empathy, and Machiavellianism (social manipulativeness)6.
Like with earlier studies, whether a person’s fursona species was described as being a predator or prey species had little bearing on the measures of interest, though there was a weak effect with regard to empathy: People with predator fursonas were slightly less likely to show empathy toward others than those with prey fursonas. With regard to aggression and Machiavellianism, however, there were no differences.
More interesting, however, were the results of the psychological scale of predator / prey identification. The scale, called the RAPT7, was designed for use in the general population: People are asked to indicate which of several pairs of animals they identify more with, one of which is always a predator and one of which is always a prey species (e.g., Snake / Rat, Hawk / Rabbit, etc.). In the authors’ original studies, they found that people who tended to choose predator species were more likely to be aggressive and score higher on measures of psychopathy. These, however, were not furries, and there is little reason to believe that they actually “identified” with these species.
So what happened when we gave this scale to furries? We found similar results to those of the scale’s original authors: While one’s fursona species’ predator/prey status didn’t predict aggression or Machiavellianism, participants’ scores on the RAPT did: furries who identified more with predator species scored higher on measures of aggression and Machivellianism. They also tended to score lower on measures of empathy.
After the 2017 study, many furries indicated that it was difficult to lump themselves into one of two categories (predator or prey.) In a later study8 we asked participants to indicate whether their fursona species falls on a continuum from “Predator” to “Prey.” Again, furries tended toward fursonas which are predators as compared to fursonas which are prey species. This coincides with previous research showing that the most popular species tend to be wolves and foxes, both of whom are likely considered to be predator species. Nevertheless, many furries said their fursona species resides somewhere in the middle.
Going forward, we plan to do further studies aimed at trying to better understand these patterns of results: why one’s fursona species wouldn’t predict measures of predation, but identifying with a handful of different predator species does. One possibility we’ll be exploring is whether it’s due to the fact that there are a myriad of reasons why a person can choose their particular fursona species. Wolves, for example, may be chosen because they are a predator species, but they could also be chosen as one’s fursona because they constitute a pack animal, or because they are so commonly used in storytelling. Future research will investigate this, and other possible explanations for these differences in results.
- See 3.12 Fursona as Ideal Self
- International Furry Survey: Summer 2011
- See 3.10 Fursona Personality
- Furry Fiesta 2016 Study
- See 10.3 Bullying
- Anthrocon 2017 Study
- For other uses of the Revised Animal Preference Test, see Of Tooth and Claw: Predator Self-Identifications Mediate Gender Differences in Interpersonal Arrogance; Which Animal Would You Be? Predator Self-Identification as A Predictor of Psychopathy
- Anthrocon 2018 Study