The Psychology of Stephen Kings "It"

Stephen King’s “It” is a novel that has captivated audiences since its publication in 1986, and was the first Stephen King book I ever read, and is one of my most favourite books written. The book is about a group of friends who come together to defeat an evil entity that has been terrorizing their home town of Derry, Maine. The entity, known as Pennywise the Clown, takes on various forms and feeds on the fears of its victims. The book has been adapted into a television series, a movie, and a sequel, all of which have been successful. In this article, we will explore the psychology behind “It” and why it has been so effective in scaring readers and viewers.

The Power of Fear

One of the reasons why “It” is so effective is that it taps into our primal fear of the unknown. The fear of the unknown is a basic human emotion that has been hardwired into our brains since ancient times. It is a survival instinct that helped our ancestors avoid danger and stay alive. “It” exploits this fear by presenting us with an unknown entity that can take on any form and attack at any time. This fear is further amplified by the fact that the entity preys on children, who are generally more vulnerable and easily frightened.

Another aspect of fear that “It” exploits is the fear of death. Death is the ultimate unknown, and it is something that we all fear, to some degree. “It” plays on this fear by presenting us with characters who are in mortal danger and may not survive the encounter. This creates a sense of tension and suspense that keeps us on the edge of our seats.

The Power of Memory

Another key element of “It” is the power of memory. The book is set in two different time periods, with the first half taking place in the 1950s and the second half taking place in the 1980s. The characters are all adults in the second half, but they are haunted by memories of their childhood experiences with Pennywise. This idea of being haunted by memories is something that many people can relate to. We all have memories that we would rather forget, but they continue to haunt us, sometimes for years or even decades.

The Power of Group Dynamics

Another important aspect of “It” is the power of group dynamics. The main characters in the book are a group of friends who come together to defeat Pennywise. They each have their own fears and weaknesses, but they are able to overcome them by working together. This idea of strength in numbers is something that has been studied extensively in psychology. People are more likely to take risks and overcome obstacles when they are part of a group. This is because being part of a group gives us a sense of belonging and support, which can be very powerful.

The Power of Trauma

Finally, “It” explores the power of trauma. The characters in the book are all survivors of traumatic events, both supernatural and mundane. These traumas have left them scarred and vulnerable, but they are able to overcome them by confronting their fears and working together. This idea of confronting trauma is something that is very important in psychology. Trauma can have long-lasting effects on our mental health, but it is possible to overcome it with the right support and treatment.


“It” is a book that has captivated audiences for over 30 years, and it is not hard to see why. The book taps into our primal fears of the unknown, death, and memory, and it explores the power of group dynamics and trauma. It is a masterful work of horror that has stood the test of time and will continue to scare readers and viewers for generations to come.