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The Science Behind Fanboyism 272

crookedvulture writes "We've all encountered fanboys. They lurk on messageboards and in comment threads, ready to trumpet the benefits of their product or brand of choice with Cheeto-stained fingertips. And it's not their fault. This analysis of the scientific research on the subject reveals that our brains unconsciously develop an affinity for products we choose over similarly attractive alternatives. Duh, right? But what's really interesting is that this affinity exists not just among adults, but also children, monkeys, and even amnesic subjects with no memory of their original choices. We're all hard-wired to be fanboys, it seems. Some of us just do a better job of overcoming our subconscious tendencies."
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The Science Behind Fanboyism

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  • by Wolvenhaven ( 1521217 ) on Friday July 15, 2011 @10:09AM (#36774730) Homepage
    When clearly Doritos are the superior snack food.
    • by idontgno ( 624372 ) on Friday July 15, 2011 @10:12AM (#36774764) Journal

      And by "Doritos" you mean the only true Doritos, the Taco flavor ones. Every other product in that line is a waste of perfectly good corn triangles, an abomination, the spawn of Anti-Dorito.

      You do mean the Taco Flavor ones, right? Or are you one of the infidels?

      • I kind of like the those pizza flavored ones that hit my area recently. I guess I'd better nail a list to a convenience store door somewhere or something.

      • Sorry, cool ranch, cheeseburger, and onion rings & ketchup flavours are clearly the superior brands of flavour. Any comments to the contrary will only further demonstrate your complete ignorance on the subject.

      • Hopefully not Cmdr Taco Flavor.
        • Tastes kind of like my basement.... :(

          (Side note: it's “My Eyes! The goggles do nothing!”)

          • Thanks for the correction - my shame (or at least this particular part of it) can now be erased from conspicuous display!

            ~Inaccurate sig quote to be rectified soon~
      • Cool Ranch is by far the greatest creation ever. Taco was a conspiracy brought on by the global banks investment in the Doritos brand. But they couldn't silence Cool Ranch freedom of choice! I mean, can you even eat Taco with Dr. Pepper and call yourself a lover of freedom? No, it's horrible and eats away at the mind! Cool Ranch and Dr. Pepper will lead to world peace and we will not be silenced!

        Down with the Taco Conspiracy!

      • Do they still make the Taco flavor? All I ever see is Nacho Cheese (which is an abomination to be sure and part of the reason why I stick with Wasabi peas).
    • Because nothing stains like the orange powdery goodness of Cheetos. 9 out of 10 supermodels prefer geeks who eat Cheetos. Doritos are for dorky losers in their mom's basement.
      • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Friday July 15, 2011 @10:43AM (#36775162)

        That is because Supermodels actually like Doritos more, But if they are in the house they will eat them and become fat. They cannot stand the vial nastiness of Cheetos thus will prefer men who eat those as it will not effect their diet and livelihood.

        Although Supermodel is an interesting profession... Most people get jobs to put food on the table, The requirement for a Supermodel is to keep as much food off the table as possible.

    • by jhoegl ( 638955 )
      Doritos... where they save money by cutting down on the flavor.
  • by surgen ( 1145449 ) on Friday July 15, 2011 @10:12AM (#36774770)

    Is there any research into what turns affinity for a product into to the need to be a dick about it?

    • Re:Still out on... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by TaoPhoenix ( 980487 ) <> on Friday July 15, 2011 @10:29AM (#36775012) Journal

      "Is there any research into what turns affinity for a product into to the need to be a dick about it?"

      Yes. Hang on to your hat because it's a far more serious issue than you think!

      Because people's self worth is increasingly swirled into what they buy, so when people dis' what they buy, it's three degrees from an insult to them for making a poor choice. Not counting stuff you're shoved into at work etc, a key part of all of life is Doing Stuff You Like. Usually this takes accessories, of all price ranges. So except for the famous discussion of cheap vs quality etc, you get right back to "what you like".

      Now for the zinger. Switch the topic from "purchases" to "religion" and watch the sparks fly!

      • It's not just products. People define their worth through what they use and who they associate with.

        Think about it. People, for some weird reason, think that by moving in the same social circles as say Paris Hilton they have more self worth. Look no further than socialites. They entire purpose is to top the charts of who's who in the social world. They don't do anything productive but yet we're supposed to treat them as if they're something special just because of who they socialize with.

        It's madness.

        • by hitmark ( 640295 )

          It's our inheritance from our ape ancestors.

        • In Social Web 2.0 some scary things emerge from taking your nice statement and playing musical chairs with the words.

          (Modified from Talderas' original)
          "People are just products. Mark Zuckerberg defines your worth and thus his own through who he uses via who you associate with."

    • This is just a personal theory so don't ask for citations. I think some people become a dick about their affinity for a product because we all want to be right. Some people feel attacked when their decision on a product is called into question, directly or indirectly, and what you see is the result of a person attempting to reestablish their "correctness" under the stress of possible invalidation. Our instincts tell us the fastest way to be recognized as correct is to establish dominance so the person tr

    • Is there any research into what turns affinity for a product into to the need to be a dick about it?

      It often starts when a bunch of people start bitching about a product. Sooner or later people check it out on their own, realize that the hate for it has been sensationalized, and they take the opposite view.

      I'm talking about actual fanboyism, though. Most of the time on Slashdot people are labeled 'fanboys' when they actually come up with a good argument and a good rebuttal is not immediately forthcoming. This is often followed by an accusation of being on said company's payroll.

    • Is there any research into what turns affinity for a product into to the need to be a dick about it?

      Correlation, not causation, etc. Some people are just dicks, period. They're dicks about everything. And when they happen to be communicating in a fanboy-ish context, they of course come across like dicks there, too.

  • by Sonny Yatsen ( 603655 ) * on Friday July 15, 2011 @10:12AM (#36774774) Journal

    I think it's much more than merely developing an affinity for products we choose over alternatives. The mark of a fanboy isn't that they like something better, it's that they've literally coalesced into miniature tribes where their preferred product (Apple being the obvious example) becomes the culture and any alternative culture (say, Windows PCs or Linux) are intruders or the enemy. But that's not really a surprise. Humans love tribes. We've loved them when we were tree-dwelling primates.

    • by jhoegl ( 638955 ) on Friday July 15, 2011 @10:26AM (#36774974)
      I am the Exception that proves the rule. I am no follower
      I lead by picking the best tool for the job.
      Would a fanboi of the philips screwdriver use it instead of a flathead on a flathead screw?
      So why use Windows in a case where Linux is superior, and Windows where Linux is superior?
      Being a "fanboi" has its limitations, as fanaticism can lead to many bad things.
      Stop hampering your visions with your emotional love for an inanimate object. Use your brain son!
    • Why is Apple the "obvious example"? It used to be that people felt that way about Linux fanboys, these days I'd say Windows/MS fanboys are actually the worst, possibly because they tend to have the backing of all the "anti-fanboys" who run Windows and hate Linux/Apple (it's especially hilarious when they clearly have never even touched Linux or OS X yet rant angrily about how stupid, homosexual or brainwashed those who don't run Windows are, oh yeah and anyone who's not a Windows user is also extremely smug

      • Thank you for proving my point.

      • Why is Apple the "obvious example"? It used to be that people felt that way about Linux fanboys, these days I'd say Windows/MS fanboys are actually the worst, possibly because they tend to have the backing of all the "anti-fanboys" who run Windows and hate Linux/Apple (it's especially hilarious when they clearly have never even touched Linux or OS X yet rant angrily about how stupid, homosexual or brainwashed those who don't run Windows are, oh yeah and anyone who's not a Windows user is also extremely smug about it and always rubs it in everyone's face, or so I've been told over and over and over and over again).

        Oh, the irony...

      • You are a fanboi. That is why you even see some division at all. I have never heard of a windows fanboy nor have I ever seen one. Most people who know enough about computers to even reach fanboy status agree that Windows works most of the time, and its relatively easy, but it doesn't have everything. For example, I wouldn't try to do scientific computations on a Windows machine, simply because on Linux there is a wealth of software to do it better. Windows is in such widespread use that most people don't ev
    • A simpler explanation is that people love to argue and arguments are easier to fight when you're actually knowledgeable about the topic you're debating. At least this explains why people bring up Android and iOS in threads that have nothing to do with either.

  • by sourcerror ( 1718066 ) on Friday July 15, 2011 @10:16AM (#36774820)

    "This analysis of the scientific research on the subject reveals that our brains unconsciously develop an affinity for products we choose over similarly attractive alternatives. "

    Elliot Aronson described this in his 1972 textbook Social Animal. (Resolving cognitive dissonance and stuff ...) []

    • I'm sure plenty of us have gone out with someone who we initially thought was ok but not amazing but eventually got to really like them. And it certainly wasn't because their personality or looks had undergone some radical overhaul in that time.

  • Why would this effect be obvious? That we choose products which we favor seems logical, but that we favor products /after/ having chosen them, even if we have a horrible experience with them after the acquisition, is not "duh".
    • Re:No, not duh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Daetrin ( 576516 ) on Friday July 15, 2011 @12:25PM (#36776454)
      It's an attempt to head off the inevitable attempts to discredit the article. Pretty much every science article on Slashdot suffers from one or more lame attacks on its credibility/importance. (I don't know if there's a set of slashdot anti-fanboys, or if it's just simply that there's always someone with poor logic skills who disagrees with any given article.)

      The most popular attacks are:

      Correlation does not equal causation: Used whenever statistics are involved, even if the researchers who did the study make no claims of causation.

      Useless: They simply can't think of any good use for whatever is being discussed, so they just make fun of it.

      Too early: The idea is years or possibly decades away from production. Will often be accompanied by comments like "we see a story like this every few months/years and it's always 5-10 years away from production, it's never going to happen." There will often be at least one reference to "where's my flying car?"

      Too late: Either of the form "this is old news, there was an article talking about this subject weeks/months/years ago, what's up with the editors at Slashdot?" or "Everyone knew that already! Why are they wasting time researching that?" Will often be accompanied by "Scientists discover that water is wet, news at 11."

      Obviously this case falls into the last category. Everyone already "knows" fanboys are irrational about their preferences, so the poster is acknowledging that before the trolls can harp on about it and trying to move us on to the part about trying to figure out _why_ that is.
  • Troll! (Score:4, Funny)

    by loftwyr ( 36717 ) on Friday July 15, 2011 @10:18AM (#36774860)

    I mean really, this whole article is just an excuse for the trolls to come out and say how good their fanboyism is versus all the other fanboys.

    I've never seen such an obvious pitch for vi, Windows, and Ubuntu

  • We see it all the time here. There are rabid fans of this or that company and there are rabid haters of the same. Both groups are sick and pathetic and, I believe, doing pretty much the same thing. The problem at slashdot is that people who like or defend a product or company and who are being fairly rational and objective are often dismissed as "fanbois" by the haters. I see a lot more haters at slashdot than I do real fanbois. Most real fanbois are probably more comfortable staying with the sites wh
    • At least fanboys are expressing a positive sentiment--haters are losers. Live and let live--somebody smart said that once.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by jellomizer ( 103300 )

        So are you a Fanboy Fanboy, or a a Hater Hater?

      • by Locutus ( 9039 )
        I've been called a _hater_ a few times while trying to use logic and reasoning to explain an opposing view. Using such a label does not make you any smarter even though it may make you feel that way. It should be, Live and let live but accept change. shit happens.

    • by Locutus ( 9039 )
      not sure about the haters but regarding /. "haters" you are probably more wrong there than right. Much of what you see has _hate_ is a long running disdain for how certain companies have operated and/or are operating. Some of those actions were legal but many were not and all were not for the good of _may the better technology win_ mantra. I used to be a fan of Microsoft until I saw the first version of NT was _not_ the new desktop computer they were saying it was. Moving to the next best technology at the
  • What about anti-fanboyism, where someone's irrational hate for a product they attack the product and demonize it's users at every opportunity?

  • It is probably a protective strategy, to defend our choices. As we choose a mate we will try to protect them as to secure the next generation. Evolution probably went where this over-generalization of the effect was good enough, and it didn't need to be particular down to having to be a mate, just a choice.

    Hanging on to the Idea that your OS choice is superior to the others, and the need to protect it against other ideas, falls under the same emotion. Failure to do so may cause other OS's to become more

    • Hanging on to the Idea that your OS choice is superior to the others, and the need to protect it against other ideas, falls under the same emotion. Failure to do so may cause other OS's to become more popular then you have wasted your time and resources on that choice. But if you defend it and keep it going then your choice was valid and good and you didn't wast your life on your OS choice.

      I was going to say that I figure the reason the preference exists is that we appreciate the security of something we *know* performs adequately over the uncertainty of an alternative. When the two products were initially rated, that knowledge didn't exist, but once the person became familiar with the product and determined it was at least *good enough*, it becomes preferable to keep using the product than to switch and take a risk. What you've said here, I think, expands upon that and explains a bit more

  • Our adherence to products we love causes us to favor our choices over others? Makes perfect sense to me, we all want reasons to love our decisions. Now if only we didn't give so much of a damn about how our decisions compare against those of others, then there would be 100% fewer "fanboyism" fights. And less fighting is good, unless I am a madman and no longer have any idea what I'm talking about. We like being right, but it's not always necessary to show it. Maybe if everyone decided once each day to reali
  • The brain does not use deduction, it uses pattern matching, and therefore, given enough training over the same things, a bias is developed.

  • explaining how or why someone thinks or acts a certain way does not remove them from accountability or responsibility

    "well see, he is a drug addict, so when he mowed down the family with his car, this is why it is not his fault"

    this is obviously tangential, but i want to make sure people understand: there is nothing wrong with explaining why people behave a certain way or say a certain thing. but explaining why they do something doesn't mean they are removed from responsibility or accountability for their actions

    i see this kind of thinking about responsibility like in the summary all the time, and it bothers me, as various neurobiological investigations EXPLAIN someone's behavior but it doesn't EXCUSE someone's behavior

    some people think explaining=excusing. no: without personal accountability in this world, all sense of morality is destroyed. if it comes out of your mouth or your hands, YOU are responsible for it. no explanation nullfies that. please understand that

    • Luckily, free will still makes perfect sense in a universe that(depending on the scale you are working with) appears to be either deterministic or probabilistic, so morality is definitely safe...
      • Even if we take the philosophical position that the universe is deterministic (forget even probabilistic), the only practical course to work with is to assume that normal sane people are responsible for their actions. And assume that sanity is how the psychologists define it. Our society's laws and economies are based on these assumptions, and so far it practically works fairly well. Changing that would change the environment in which we have adapted to be and may or may not result in a worse status quo tha

    • by maxume ( 22995 )

      I think you are poorly estimating the motivations of many of the people that decry biological explanations for behavior. They have integrated their morality as a feature of the universe that they live in, not as a system of evaluating the actions of themselves and others (in other words, their ideas of good and bad are not in any way thoughtful, they are simply prescribed).

      So concepts that undermine the idea that morality is a feature of the universe threaten their entire world view and they are not willing

      • yes, absolutely

        but we mustn't forget the assholes who think explaining behavior biologically actually excuses people from the consequences of their actions

        such assholes are real. mainly, the people committing various crimes

    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      In some cases it may excuse the behavior.

      Personal accountability has NOTHING to do with morality.

  • I guess that's why I keep coming here, as opposed to switching to reddit.

  • I'm I the only one who is concerned by the validity of their experiment. The last experiment lets me very dubious.

    Imagine you have 3 smileys. They have similar ratings, but for sure there is one you prefer, one you rate 2nd and one you rate 3rd. Now, let's just see the result we would have for each scenario.

    Rating of cards 1/2/3 ; 3rd card chosen after initial choice ; 3rd card chosen without initial choice (so just between card 2 and card 3)

    1/2/3 ; False (1 chosen on first pass) ; False
    1/3/2 ; True (1 cho

    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      The seems valid to me. I can't help but not that your example is no no way like what they did. []

      In a nut shell. When there where 3 stickers A,B,C and a child like A,B equally, and C less. After being given a choice between A And C, the child chose A. Afterwords, the child perfered A over B. Or if the choice was between B and C, afterward the child liked B more then A. Don't let my simple explanation lead you to believe they where actually in A,B,C

  • ".... Some of us just do a better job of overcoming our subconscious tendencies."

    It's called "being a rational, critically thinking person" and ignoring the shininess to look for value.
  • we are hardwired to excuse away the faults of something when we are vested in it.

    Fanboys are people who go to the extreme end and try to force other people to ignore the same faults that are.

    It applies to family, religion, products, everything. The length of the excuse will be correlated to the amount of value and time people put into something

    It should be noted that being aware that happens means someone can learn how to recognize and stop making those emotional judgements.

  • It's easy to induce fanboyism; just give the subject a bag of Cheetos, Doritos, or any crunchy snack.

    The most extreme fanboys are those who have received little gifts from vendors. A desk trinket or T-shirt goes a long way towards making the prospective fanboy feel "loved", "part of the team", etc. Bigger gifts work even better -- free products for home use, "training", etc. And for the truly resistant fanboy there is some extreme methods that can induce fanboyism: blackjack and strippers.

    The other way t

  • "Some of us just do a better job of overcoming our subconscious tendencies."

    I've never met any of these people.


  • Yeah... Nothing new here. Psychologists have understood confirmation bias [] for decades --if only the unwashed masses had this insight and could turn off Fox News (or Air America?) long enough to consider their own biases. God, what I wouldn't do to get one semester of critical thinking added to the K-12 educational curriculum.

    Like Michael Shermer points out in his recent book [], giving mental priority to our first impressions and previous experience was critical to our survival back when we were swinging
  • i swear to god man every time i visit slashdot it just get better and better, from the funky green/teal colors to the submissions and the comments are the best! even the anonymous cowards are to be loved!
  • by Theovon ( 109752 ) on Friday July 15, 2011 @12:12PM (#36776254)

    Honestly, I think that calling someone a "fanboy" is just an ad hominem attack that people use when someone else's favorite thing is different from your favorite thing. The fact is, people come to like things, and they enjoy talking about them. Some people won't shut up about football. It's their thing. They enjoy it. They may seem unwilling to admit that basketball is an equally valid sport, from an objective point of view, because to them, football is the best thing. EVERYONE has this kid of narrow perspective on SOMETHING. However, while they may be narrow about it, calling them a fanboy is nothing but a way to completely dismiss every argument they make, even those that may be perfectly valid and useful. Maybe they are wrong that basketball sucks, but they may be equally correct that football is awesome.

    Let's try an example. Richard Dawkins is an atheism fanboy. In fact, he's a great scientist and educator. I understand evolutionary biology very well, but this guy could run rings around me when it comes to depth of knowledge and the ability to explain it clearly to others. On the other hand, he's got a bug up his ass about the evils of religion. Many of his complaints are perfectly legitimate, of course, because various religions have been the cause of massive atrocities. Moreover, our scientific understanding has brought us to the point that the vast majority of things that humans once attributed to gods are in fact the result of completely natural processes that follow consistent physical laws. With regard to the vast majorty of the world, it is completely unnecessary and even perhaps inappropriate to evoke "God" as part of the explanation. That being said, an absence of evidence does not imply evidence of absence. For all we know, "God" could be inhabitants of a meta universe wherein our universe is a computer simulation, and they have made occasional tweaks to keep the simulation running right. So, Dawkins has taken his lack of evidence for God and taken a leap of faith that there definitly isn't one, and rather than just being a proponent of atheism, he is vehement about it, attempting to persuade people of the "truth" of his belief. He should stick to being a fantastic scientist and picking at specific problems that religions cause (in any case, religions are human constructs), and stop being so forceful about something he can't really prove. He can prove evolution. He can't prove atheism. Evolution is good science. Atheism is a belief, taken on faith, even if it is in fact highly plausible, with the alternatives having very little support. (I am inclined to think that agnosticism is the only belief without faith, because it doesn't assert anything specific, but I could be wrong about that.)

    The point I'm making here is that Dawkins has some errors in his reasoning that might make some people dismiss him. If you're religious and he attacks your religion, then you're not going to want to listen to him talk about evolution. But in fact, he's one of the BEST people to listen to if you want to understand evolution.

    I was thinking of going on with some other example about Mac fanboys, but I'm running out of time. For me, I'm just getting old and I prefer the fact that a Mac doesn't make me babysit basic things like connecting to wifi or backing up files. But my idiology places usability concerns first, with issues of "free software" coming second. The point is that many Mac fanboys have religious fervor. Nothing can touch the awesomeness of a Mac. But I'm sure you can anticipate what I'm going to say next: Even if their knowledge of Windows and Linux is completely wrong, they know tons about Macs and you might learn something from that.

  • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Friday July 15, 2011 @01:19PM (#36777210) Homepage

    This analysis of the scientific research on the subject reveals that our brains unconsciously develop an affinity for products we choose over similarly attractive alternatives.

    People in general have an affinity to belong to groups ... Tribes, religions, sports teams, Coke or Pepsi, vi or emacs, KY or Astroglide ...

    People invest their self worth into these things, and they feel threatened when challenged. Sometimes, they feel motivated to tell everybody else how they should also sign up for this exclusive club .. because it further validates their self image.

    I think the reverse is also true, some people have invested just as much into disliking something ... oh, for example, the almost irrational hatred of Apple you see here on Slashdot (which, if I remember correctly, is about what it was for Microsoft about 8-10 years ago).

    That the 'other guy is a doodie head' is part of the us/them image you build up. He simply has to be a doodie head, because he disagrees with you on a topic on which You Are Right(tm).

    I suspect from an evolutionary perspective, this is probably indicative of a broader range of how people have affinities for group membership as a whole.

    Or, I'm talking completely out of my ass ... it could go either way really. :-P

Love may laugh at locksmiths, but he has a profound respect for money bags. -- Sidney Paternoster, "The Folly of the Wise"