Tag Archives: Science

Trade-Offs in Furry Research: [adjective][species] vs. The IARP

Guest post by Courtney “Nuka” Plante, PhD social psychology student at the University of Waterloo, furry, and co-founder of the International Anthropomorphic Research Project.

To paraphrase Lao Tzu: “There are many paths to enlightenment.” This statement is just as true of science as it is of philosophy or spiritual fulfillment. In science, knowledge is seldom gained through one perfectly-designed study that single-handedly topples all preexisting theories. Rather, the progress of science involves the convergence of dozens or hundreds of studies by numerous scientists, all with different approaches to the the topic at hand.

The reason science progresses this way becomes apparent as you delve into the empirical literature. Search as you might through the annals of scientific history, you will never find a perfectly-designed study. Every study has its confounding variables, alternative explanations, limitations in generalizability, problematic variable operationalizations; the list goes on and on.

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Furry Research: The Humanization of Animals

Furries play a starring role in a 2006 paper that explores ‘animal geography’, an emerging field of cultural research related to human-animal interaction. The paper’s author believes that furry phenomenon is on the leading-edge of changes affecting society as a whole: the replacement of human-human social contact with human-animal social contact.

The paper, written by Dr Heidi J. Nast and published in ACME, is titled “Loving… Whatever: Alienation, Neoliberalism and Pet-Love in the Twenty-First Century” (link to full text). If that sounds like tortured prose, then, well, you should read the article itself. It’s not easy going. But hidden under the unwelcoming academic language is a fascinating perspective on the furry phenomenon.

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Furry Research: A Response from the IARP

Guest post by Courtney “Nuka” Plante, PhD social psychology student at the University of Waterloo, furry, and co-founder of the International Anthropomorphic Research Project. This article is a response to JM’s recent article, “Furry Research: A Look Back at Dr Gerbasi’s Landmark 2007 Study“.

Hi there! I read through (and quite enjoyed the insight in) your recent article and felt compelled to provide my take on things, (keeping in mind that Dr. Gerabsi’s article pre-dates my involvement with the furry research). Given that I’m in the lucky position of being at the forefront of our team’s research, I may be able to provide another perspective on this issue.

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Furry Research: A Look Back at Dr Gerbasi’s Landmark 2007 Study

The first notable academic study on furries is six years old. Completed in 2007 (published 2008), Gerbasi et al’s Furries from A to Z (Anthropomorphism to Zoomorphism) provides a review of furries based on 246 responses (including 217 furries) to surveys distributed at Anthrocon, plus an ad hoc ‘control group’ of 65 psychology students.

The study had two main goals: to test the validity of the usual furry stereotypes, and to investigate whether furries exhibit signs of personality disorder.

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The Science of Zoophilia

Scientific research on human sexuality is a relatively new field. The Kinsey Reports, published in 1948 (men) and 1953 (women) (link), were the first attempt to gather data on human sexual behaviour. These were informally updated by Playboy in the 1970s (link), back when it retained some literary relevance, in an attempt to understand the changes brought about by the sexual revolution, and—of course—to provide some salacious reading material.

It took until the early 1980s for researchers to confirm that homosexuality is largely set at birth (ref). This work, controversial at the time, contradicted the prevailing wisdom that male homosexuality came about due to feminization of a male child, caused by an overbearing mother and distant father (the reverse supposedly applied for lesbians). This conclusion was simple enough to make: researchers interviewed a large number of people, asking about their childhood and sexual preference, then looked for correlations. (They found none.) And yet such simple data gathering took more than 30 years after Kinsey to be published.

The science of zoophilia is much less mature. Kinsey asked questions and gathered data (as did Playboy) however the first serious attempt to understand zoophilia was published more than 50 years later, by Dr Hani Milestki in 1999. Miletski’s book suggested that zoophilia may be a legitimate sexual preference: one defined by love, not sex.

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The Haters

In the April 2012 Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, there is an interesting piece of research that presents evidence that “homophobia can result, at least in part, from the suppression of same-sex desire“.

There are two ways that this conclusion might be perceived:

One: hypertolerant types might think this provides a bit of scientific ammunition against the bigoted. We can take the logical next step and apply this idea to haters within furry, which reframes them as closeted versions of the object of their hatred.

Two: skeptical types might think that psychological experiments are never statistically sound, and that academics are pre-disposed to presenting conclusions that match up with their pre-existing beliefs.

Both of these perspectives are valid if extreme. As always, the truth is somewhere in the middle. I’m going to explore this, and how this is reflected within the furry community, but first I’m going to talk about cognitive psychology and chronobiology.

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“My fursona is a mole…”

Yeah, you probably haven’t seen it. It’s pretty underground.

I first began to suspect a furry:hipster overlap in the dealer’s den at Furry Weekend Atlanta, when I observed that the ratio of hat-wearing men was precipitously high. Not ballcaps, mind you — fedoras, flat caps, bowlers, and other examples of the sort of headwear that one would expect to find less in Atlanta than in, say, 1954.

If hats aren’t your thing (and how do you fit your ears through them, anyway?) you may defer instead to the Skinny Jean Quotient, which is also elevated. If anybody asks why you’re staring at their pants, just tell them it’s for research. Nobody wants to stand in the way of science.

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