Believing the TV: Perceptions of crime fiction as a possible basis for the 'CSI Effect'

Turner, Jim (2015). Believing the TV: Perceptions of crime fiction as a possible basis for the 'CSI Effect'. In: European Association of Psychology and Law Conference (EAPL 2015), 4-7 Aug 2015, Nuremberg, Germany.


Legal professionals have raised concerns about a possible 'CSI Effect' operating in courtrooms. This effect is proposed to occur when jurors expect the forensic evidence presented in court to be of the same type, standard and/or certainty as the forensic evidence they have seen in fictional media. This could potentially lead to miscarriages of justice, either wrongful acquittals if jurors do not receive the kind of evidence they expect or wrongful convictions if jurors assume that weak forensic evidence is as inconvertible as it is presented in fiction. Underlying the CSI Effect is the assumption that people watching crime fiction are unable to accurately judge the extent to which it represents real forensic science. This paper presents data from an online survey (~1600 respondents) which explored whether people could accurately judge the realism of various (real and fictional) items of forensic science 'evidence'. The findings are considered in relation to fictional forensic science exposure, as well as potential attenuating or mitigating variables, such as general and science-specific education.

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