Publication Date

April 2014


The concept of monsters is ubiquitous across cultures, but there has been little research on monsters themselves and what factors shape people’s attitudes toward them. Kennesaw State University undergraduate psychology students (N = 450) read unbiased, positively biased, or negatively biased reports of one of 15 fictional monsters before all participants read identical stories about an encounter with the monster. Questionnaire responses indicated that reading a negatively biased report results in significantly more negative attitudes toward a monster than reading an unbiased report, that attitudes toward animals positively correlate with attitudes toward monsters, and that attitudes toward monsters differ depending on what real-life animals they most resemble. The results provide a greater understanding of how humans perceive and react to unfamiliar nonhumans, specifically those with characteristics of various animals, and suggest that research on animal-like monsters can elucidate human perceptions of real-life animals. Applications include identifying the best methods to counteract negative media images of animals, discovering a culture’s views on animals through the monsters in its folklore, and identifying in advance which unfamiliar endangered animals likely need the most publicity in order to engender public support.