What are the best forensic TV series

07.12.2017 15:20

CSI effect: viewers of crime series are no better criminals

Petra Giegerich Communication and press
Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz

Psychological study does not see a connection between the consumption of forensic series and the ability to cover up crimes

“CSI effect” - this is the name given to the phenomenon according to which forensic TV series influence the viewer. Findings from the "Crime Scene Investigation", ie the investigation of the crime scene in the film, could therefore be reflected in real life. In the worst case, it is feared that potential criminals will learn how best to cover up an act. However, concerns have also been expressed that members of US jury courts may have excessive expectations of the results of the investigation and that the number of acquittals will increase as a result. Psychologists from Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) led by Prof. Dr. Heiko Hecht are now giving the all-clear: In an experimental study, they show that there is no connection between watching forensic series and the ability to commit a crime. It is the first experimental work that deals with the question of whether the viewers of such series might be better criminals.

"CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" was the title of a US series that ran on American television from 2000 and described the criminal investigation of the crime scene. The effect that gets its name from this series was soon used to refer to any effect a popular crime series has on audiences, including criminals, police, and potential scientific forensic students. "The assertion of such connections or effects then stood in the room for years without any studies being carried out," explains Dr. Andreas Baranowski. The scientist and his colleagues at JGU carried out four different studies in order to investigate the claims and achieve the most reliable results possible.

First, the psychologists looked at statistics from the databases of the BKA and FBI and compared the rate of crime investigation in the years before the start of CSI with the rate afterwards. Then 24 convicted criminals in prisons were asked for their opinion on series such as CSI and whether they found such series helpful in avoiding prosecution. In a third step, the scientists developed an elaborate test set-up to find out whether viewers of CSI series are actually better at covering up the traces of a fake crime. Baranowski and his colleagues pursued this goal with the fourth part of the experiment, in which the crime was re-enacted with the help of a doll's house.

CSI effect is a myth

Overall, it was found that there was no connection between the consumption of forensic series and the ability to commit a crime. However, in the fourth part of the experiment, the men performed better than women in their task, younger participants better than older ones, and more highly educated participants better than less educated participants. Test subjects from technical professions, mostly men, also seem to have certain advantages in covering up crimes.

Baranowski points out that similar effects have already been mentioned in the past. From Sherlock Holmes to Quincy to Law & Order, warning voices repeatedly voiced their concerns that the wrong people could be informed. "Whenever something new comes up, fears arise that smell flat and monocausal dangers and call for prohibitions." These voices are now the wind taken from the sails. "We can now refute the myths that have been circulating in the media and other writings for the last 20 years and say with a relatively high degree of certainty that people who watch CSI are no better at covering their tracks than other people."

Baranowski published the study "The CSI-education effect: Do potential criminals benefit from forensic TV series?" in the Department of General and Experimental Psychology at JGU and is now working as a postdoc in psychological research at the Justus Liebig University in Giessen.

Experiment on the CSI effect: crime scene that had to be cleaned
Photo / ©: Andreas Baranowski

Andreas M. Baranowski, Anne Burkhardt, Elisabeth Czernik, Heiko Hecht
The CSI-education effect: Do potential criminals benefit from forensic TV series?
International Journal of Law, Crime and Justice, October 12, 2017
DOI: 10.1016 / j.ijlcj.2017.10.001

Additional Information:
Dr. Andreas Baranowski
Department of Psychology
Justus-Liebig university of Giessen
35394 casting
Tel. +49 641 99-26338
Fax +49 641 99-26309
Email: [email protected] and [email protected]
https: //www.uni-giessen.de/fbz/fb06/psychologie/abt/psychologie/psychotherapie/t ... and https://www.blogs.uni-mainz.de/fb02-aep/baranowski-andreas /

More links:
http://www.uni-mainz.de/presse/aktuell/2506_DEU_HTML.php (press release from 08/30/2017 "Cinema audience can be emotionally strongly influenced by sound clips or other viewers")
http://www.uni-mainz.de/presse/76137.php (press release from August 1st, 2016 "Real and artificially produced 3-D films are practically indistinguishable")
https://experimental.psychologie.uni-mainz.de/ (Department of General and Experimental Psychology)

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