Date of Award

Fall 12-2017

Degree Type

Honors College Thesis



First Advisor

Jameela Lares

Advisor Department



The effectiveness of H. P. Lovecraft’s horror relies on an atmosphere of dread in his stories. Both the verisimilitude of Lovecraft’s stories and the dilemma many of his protagonists face in losing their sanity or being perceived to have lost their sanity play a large role in creating this atmosphere. By viewing Lovecraft’s fiction through the lens of recent psychological research on fear, this project shows how his intuitive understanding of fear and his vivid imagery and sensory descriptions conform to our understanding of unconscious automatic threat avoidance behaviors. Because Lovecraft’s behavioral descriptions accurately reflect these behaviors, they increase the sense of verisimilitude in his fiction and thus increase the effectiveness of his horror. This project uses these behavioral descriptions to show the presence or absence of immediate physical threats to Lovecraft’s characters. The presence of these threats indicates that the character that encounters them is sane. Finally, this project discusses how the presence of a sane protagonist who has encountered the otherworldly threats of Lovecraft’s world and appears insane as a result of his newfound beliefs bolsters a story’s verisimilitude and more effectively inspires dread.


Honors College Award: Excellence in Research