Category Archives: Front Page Story

The Unexpectedly Fascinating Research with the Brony Fandom

What’s a Brony? For that matter, what’s a Fandom? Dr. Marsha Redden, long-time Louisiana psychologist, now retired and transplanted to South Carolina where she’s licensed and studying at University of South Carolina– Upstate, has a bit of an idea. Redden and her colleagues have been researching the fan group who call themselves “Bronies,” the unexpected fan group of boys and young men––the average age is 21––who follow the animated television show, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. The series, produced by Hasbro, targets the market segment of preadolescent girls and their parents. But the show won critical acclaim and, according to online bloggers, appealed to many of the fans of other animated shows like Pokemon, Robot Unicorn Attack, and Nyan Cat. These young males appreciated the show’s artanimation, music, and story line: a quest against the dark and destructive side of human nature with moral courage, love, and tolerance.

After 2010 these fans began to connect on the Internet and adopted the name Brony (singular) to describe themselves, combining “bro” and “pony,” for boys who like ponies. A polarizing online battle between Bronies and their critics, crystallized the group and the fandom began to thrive.

Screen Shot 2015-04-19 at 1.51.24 PM

Past President of the Louisiana Psychological Association Dr. John Fanning (L) speaks with Brony Fandom researchers from SLU, William Schmidt and Megan Simon. The two work with SLU psychology faculty member Daniel Chadborn in social psychology research and help understand new forms of group identity.

The phenomenon has carried Redden and her colleagues along with it. Redden has appeared in two films and she presented at fan conferences of 10,000 plus, speaking to standing room only audiences. “To our knowledge,” Dr. Redden said, “this is the first time psychologists have studied a fandom from the beginning.” She and colleague Daniel Chadborn, psychology faculty member from Southeastern Louisiana University (SLU), and Drs. Patrick Edwards and Jan Griffin from USC-Upstate, have collected data on 50,000 fans. The research team has looked at the demographics of the Bronies and presented research that has both helped explain the unique fandom, and helped deal with stereotyping. What have they found? Eighty-six percent of the Brony fandom are male, the average age is 21 with a range of 14 to 57, and 70 percent are students and 33 percent employed full or part-time. In sexual orientation, 84 percent describe themselves as heterosexual, 1.7 describe themselves as homosexual, 10.3 as bisexual, and 3.8 as asexual.

As a group, Bronies tend to be higher in Introversion, Agreeableness, and also in Absorption, a trait that seems related to artistic enjoyment and interests. The fandom appears to serve a strong “Social Function” for the Bronies, helping them expand friendship networks, and also a strong “Guidance Function” which helps support and make moral choices. The psychologists’ research has been fully embraced by the Bronies. “In the fandom I am known as ‘Dr. Sci Entific,’ Redden told the Times, “and you haven’t lived until you’ve gotten a standing ovation from 1,000 people or had a line waiting for you to sign autographs.” This is every summer at BronyCon. Redden has even autographed Diagnostic and Statistical Manuals.

While fan clubs have been around forever, the boost that telecommunications have added to overcoming geographical distances has helped to create some large and unique fandoms such as the Bronies. The researchers appear to be the first psychologists who have been able to compare fans and non-fans, and study the evolution of the fans as they grew and matured, explained Redden. “It is also the first time a fandom has been studied in this depth,” she said. “We have data on their demographics, sexuality, religion, hobbies, social behavior, drug behavior, to mention just a few. In all we have over 50,000 respondents in the data pool so you can see that the stats is a giant project.” The database is so big, she said, she’s retaking statistics courses. SLU undergraduate coordinator Daniel Chadborn and his students, William Schmidt and Megan Simon, have produced a host of presentations and presented at APA, the Louisiana Psychological Association, Southeastern Psychological Association, and will present at the upcoming Southwestern Psychological Association (SWPA). Chadborn joined the research group in 2012. “… I was looking into identity and personality types of table top role playing gamers,” he said, when he discovered the Brony reseachers. Chadborn has found it interesting that the “… fandom offers a large motivated population––our second survey took in close to 20,000 survey responses on a 45 plus minute long battery of surveys––and that is first and foremost what we have found supports the idea that fandoms, and especially the Bronies, are a positive group and offers a majority of its members positive benefits.” “It was also interesting to examine a fandom or group that had the potential to expand and last much longer than a few months,” Chadborn said, “and one that we could gather information and track changes from the beginning, rather than 10 plus years down the line or more if you look at groups like the Trekkers/Trekkies.”

He is also interested in the universal purposes of fan and leisure activity involvement. He and students Schmidt and Simon are examining fandom as a whole including focus of identification, fan interactions, size, and the universal traits of fandoms. They will be presenting some of their work at the upcoming Southwestern Psychological Association. Their results suggests that fandoms can offer three functions: a sense of guidance, inspiration, purpose, or sense of uniqueness; a way to share a liked interest; and stress relief. Chadborn, Schmidt and Simon are examining fandom as a whole including focus of identification, fan interactions, size, and the universal traits of fandom. And have concluded that “… regardless of where a fan’s interest lies, the purposes and functions the fandom and interest serve are the same.”

The Brony researchers have been interviewed in two films, distributed internationally and now on Netflix: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony, produced by John De Lancie, and A Brony Tale, produced by Bret Hodge. “There is even a t-shirt, with the logo,” Redden said. The “WWAPD factor” logo and tshirt emerged after Redden commented on the issue of moral guidance and the “What Would a Pony Do” factor. “Many therapists and parents have written to thank us for doing this work because now they know what THEY are dealing with,” said Dr. Redden. To find more information go to and click on the FAQ’s at the top or the Results section.





Mary Ann Goodwyn

Dr. Mary Ann Goodwyn Dies at 65 in Ruston

Mary Ann Goodwyn

Dr. Mary Ann Goodwyn (in green) speaks with colleagues at the 2010 College of Education and Human Development Alumni Ceremony at U. of Louisiana at Monroe, where she was recognized by the Department of Psychology for outstanding service and leadership. The Chair, Dr. David Williamson, told the Times that Dr. Goodwyn “Always did excellent work.” (Photo by C. Rodriguez, courtesy of CEHD, ULM.)

Dr. Mary Ann Goodwyn, clinical psychologist and Associate Professor of Psych- ology at Louisiana Tech Univer- sity, and also previously Assis- tant/Associate Professor at University of Louisiana at Monroe, died of cancer on January 13, 2012. She was 65.

Dr. Goodwyn’s life and career were characterized by an adventurous, open, and authentic nature, having crisscrossed the country from Louisiana to North Carolina to Colorado to Oregon, the to Washington state to California and back, training and working in psychology. She returned to north Louisiana to teach and practice, impacting thousands of students, her colleagues, and

community members with her intelligence, authenticity, and vision. She lived her life with an awareness and respect for the significance of the human experience, of people, and of truth. She faced both life and death with this same grace and courageous insight.

Mary Ann was born in Dallas and grew up in Ruston, moving to Greensboro to earn her B.A. in psychology from the University of North Carolina. She returned to Louisiana to earn her masters in experimental psychology from University of Louisiana at Monroe in 1971.

This launched her teaching career and she was a natural. She began as an instructor at Chowan College in Murfreesboro, North Carolina, and a few years later moved to Gunnison, Colorado to accept a position with Western State College. Her next career move took her to a research position with the Department of Developmental Psychology at Denver University. After several years she decided to move into clinical work and accepted a position as Mental Health Specialist, relocating to Gold Beach, Oregon.

In 1983 Mary Ann entered the doctoral psychology program in clinical (and pediatric specialty) at the University of Washington in Seattle. During her training she worked as a research assistant at the Children’s Hospital, as a therapist in the Counseling Center, and with the Suicidal Behaviors Research Clinic. She completed her internship in child-clinical psychology at Stanford University Medical Center, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, in Palo Alto, California. This included the Children’s Hospital at Stanford, the Children’s Health Council, and Stanford University Hospital.

In 1991 she accepted an appointment at the University of Louisiana at Monroe as Assistant/Associate Professor a move that defined her teaching career for the next 15 years. She taught undergraduate and graduate courses including advanced topics in clinical psychology, methodology, abnormal, child, statistics, and the honors seminar.

Dr. Goodwyn was also a licensed psychologist and with her friend and colleague, Dr. Judith A. Howard, LCSW, cofounded Behavioral Health Associates in Ruston in 1997. Dr. Goodwyn focused her practice on children and adolescents.

In 2002 Mary Ann earned a masters from the California School of Professional Psychology in psycho- pharmacology and in 2006 she took an appointment as Associate Professor at Louisiana Tech University, where she taught undergraduate and graduate courses including neuroscience and human behavior, child psychopathology & treatment, and the advanced practicum supervision.

She authored and coauthored over 40 papers and presentations during these years, including “Medical and psychosocial models developed for the prediction of outcomes of children with meningomyelocele,” presented at the International Society for Research in Hydrocephalus and Spina Bifida, in Mainz, Germany. She presented and sponsored numerous presentations at the Southwestern and Southeastern Psychological Associations, including, “Relationships between diagnosis and progression of adolescents through inpatient levels systems.”

At the American Society for Adolescent Psychiatry in Sarasota, Florida, she presented, “Inpatient levels systems for children and adolescents: Where are we going?” And she delivered an address at the ULM President’s Banquet at the Monroe Civic Center, titled “University teaching and the College of Education and Human Development.”

In 1996 Mary Ann helped develop programs for interdisciplinary courses for integrating life sciences and social sciences and humanities, for an institute sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for Humanities.

She worked with Dr. Joseph McGahan in the Strategic Planning Committee for ULM. She served on the ULM Honors Program Council, the Core Values Committee, Faculty Senate, and the Core Curriculum Committee at ULM, and she contributed to numerous grants and research projects.

At Louisiana Tech she served on the Core Faculty for the Counseling Psychology Doctoral Program and on the University Graduate Council. She served in the Psychological Services Clinic for child, adolescent treatment, eating disorders, psychopharmacology, and medical/psychological interface issues.

Dr. Goodwyn was a member of American Psychological Association, the Louisiana Psychological Association, the Southwestern Psychological Association and the Southeastern Psychological Association. She was an inductee of Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society.

In recent years she worked with Dr. Eddie Bell at the Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness, publishing “Medical Issues and Special Populations: Providing Training to Students with Mental Health Issues” in the Braille Monitor. Dr. Goodwyn consulted with the Louisiana Center for the Blind, working with Dr. Bell in an on-going project to assist blind individuals in building success in their lives, a study titled, “Factors that support the achievement of success in blind adults.”

Perhaps some of the most telling contributions were Mary Ann’s community involvements which combined her training with keen insight and appreciation for the natural world, its people, and the future.

While in North Carolina she was a consultant and educator for North Carolina Outward Bound, a premier program for experience-based outdoor leadership development. Later she served as a board member, trainer, and chairperson for Wilderness Experience.

She was a children’s programmer and organizer for National Public Radio. And she was involved in the Community Theatre as a children’s stage tutor, a set worker, and an actress.

She participated as organizer and speaker for the Spina Bifida Parent Support Group.

She served as a Health Advisory Board member, consultant, and in-service provider to the OMCAP Head Start Program in Ruston and as a speaker to the Autism/Asperger’s Disorder Family Support Group, the Methodist Children’s Home, and the National Federation of the Blind.

She served on the board of directors for the North Central Louisiana Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit, global housing program.

Mary Ann was instrumental in helping found the Ruston Farmers Market where she volunteered whenever she could. The Market’s administrator wrote,

“We can’t express strongly enough how important Mary Ann was to this community. Anyone who spent any time with Mary Ann couldn’t help but be touched by her compassion and her desire to better the world.”

Mary Ann impacted all who came into her sphere. Dr. Lou’uan Gollop-Brown, of LaTech, said, “I have only known Mary Ann for four short years, but it always felt like a lifetime of knowing. She was my mentor and also my supervisor while completing my post-doctoral assignments, and I will miss her terribly. Mary Ann was the type of person who looked at you deeply, listened to you intently, and responded to you earnestly. It was not difficult to guess that she cared about you and everything that you were saying.”

Dr. Donna Thomas, also a LaTech colleague said, “In my life, Mary Ann was first my teacher, later my thesis committee member, then my colleague. But it was as her friend that I learned what a truly special person she was. I love that she lived life on her own terms. And I love that every person touched by one of Mary Ann’s students or friends will carry a little piece of her with them.”

“My favorite memory of her is not a professional one,” said Dr. Bill McCown. “She was obviously very ill. My son and I ran into her at our vet, where we were taking our oversized strays. While we waited, Mary Ann utterly engaged my four-year-old and also befriended the usually-aggressive dog. She was obviously in extreme pain. Still, she pursued this conversation with gusto, laughing, joking, and gently endearing herself to my son.” He said, “Mary Ann’s unique talent was that she could empathize with anyone, at any time.”

“Mary Ann was simply the most conscientious person I’ve known,” said Dr. Howard. “An example was her call to me from the emergency room the day before she died to tell me something she wanted me to do for her clients. If Mary Ann said she would do something in our practice, she did. I never had to worry about her following through on a commitment. I couldn’t have asked for a more dependable business partner, or a more trusted friend.”

“Her gift with children was not something that can be taught. She inherently valued them and knew how genuinely to convey that message,” Dr. Howard said.

Heifer International

Heifer International was one of Mary Ann’s favorite organizations. They ask, “Can one animal change the world?” Mary Ann volunteered at the Heifer Ranch in Arkansas. Above is a youngster in Heifer International’s meat goat project in Cameroon, Africa. (Photo by Jake Lyell, courtesy of Heifer International.)

Dr. Mary Ann Goodwyn’s love of people and for the environment came together with her support and volunteer efforts with Heifer International, Inc., a world hunger organization that combines long-term solutions to hunger, environmental sustainability, and community involvement. Mary Ann was a strong supporter and had been a volunteer at the Heifer Ranch in Perryville, Arkansas. This organization was so important to her that

her family asked that memorial donations be directed to Heifer International. Mary Ann had at one time hoped to retire and work for the company full time.

“Mary Ann was an asset to our community and gave of her time to make it a better place,” said Dr. Howard. “She was happiest when she was able to be outside in the natural world, and she appreciated simple pleasures—a good cup of coffee, good food, and good conversation.”

“Mary Ann Goodwyn will be remembered for her inquisitiveness, her utmost adherence to ethics, and simply because she was so gentle and subtly funny, “ noted Dr. McCown. “She was a kind, generous, and often profound person who taught uncountable students to recognize the power, beauty, and importance of psychology.”

“She believed that psychology could transform her community and even the world into a better place. The lives that she touched demonstrated how accurate she was about this,” he said.