Android owners are elitist super-geeks who pay a premium to beta test buggy software that never quite gets done. iPhone users are techno-ignorant, obnoxiously buying into under-specced gadgets and stale features as magical. Androiders are arrogant. iPhoners have Stockholm Syndrome. And BlackBerry and WinPho 7 users are just delusional.

We’ve heard it all at this point, the rantings and ravings of fanboism spewing out across the internet. And we take it for granted that things will get heated whenever anyone says anything positive (or negative) about a particular device or OS. But do we ever stop to wonder why there’s so much acid and vitriol?

Researchers at the University of Illinois did. The next issue of the Journal of Consumer Psychology will feature results from their study, delving into this modern syndrome of fanboism. Using a factor called SBC, or self-brand connections — a level of connectedness evidenced by following, researching, or just liking a particular brand — the researchers monitored two groups as they learned general ratings for an array of brands. What they found was that people with high levels of SBC suffered the biggest shots to their own sense of self-esteem when the reviews for their favorite companies were negative. People with low SBC, on the other hand, weren’t really affected.

In other words, extreme fanboys are aggressive and defensive because they feel personally attacked. And it can be tough to accept a beloved company’s failures, since they feel like personal failures, thereby explaining all the denial that tends to go on. (Sort of like not believing that your little angel could possibly be the troublemaker or underperformer in class.)

While this may not exactly shock anyone who’s gone head to head with a fanboy, this does flip the business theory of brand devotion on its head. Fanboism isn’t indicative of a strong relationship between a consumer and a company, as many thought. It’s symptomatic of an issue with the fan’s self-esteem and self-image, which can lead them to go to extreme lengths to protect their view.

“Consumers are highly resistant to brand failure to the point that they’re willing to rewrite history,” says business administration professor and researcher Tiffany Barnett White. She cites the example of Toyota customers ignoring any negative news about this brand — even in the face of well-publicized recalls.

Wow, and I thought phone fans were hardcore. It doesn’t get more extreme than risking life and limb to support a company.

What do you think of this study’s findings? Are you a fankid who thinks there’s nothing wrong with your brand loyalty? Or do you agree completely with this explanation? Tell us if you believe this is true or hot air.

[via ArsTechnica]