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“CSI Effect” Studies On Crime & Courtroom Behavior


If you thought that the “CSI Effect” was just something you made up while watching your favorite TV shows, think again: Many have expressed concerns that the “CSI Effect”—or people changing their approach to crime due to how they perceive forensic evidence as portrayed on these TV shows—could influence criminal and courtroom behavior and conviction rates.

While previous reports had concluded that those who watched television programs like CSI expressed a stronger level of skepticism towards forensic science testimony in general, other studies also indicated that while TV show viewers like these may have higher expectations for this type of scientific evidence (as compared to those who do not watch these types of shows), these expectations reportedly did not have any bearing on their (the prospective juror’s) propensity to convict a criminal defendant.

In early January 2018, researchers from Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz released a study which purports that there is no direct connection between learning about the forensic science relied on in those shows and averting being caught after committing a crime. We discuss these findings in more detail, below.

The Study

We’ve previously discussed how the public’s faith in the simplicity of forensic evidence could lead to questionable results in the courtroom. So how did researchers prove that there is no connection between television shows like these and concealing illegal activities?

Researchers from Gutenberg analyzed data from the FBI and its equivalent in other countries, compared it to crime detection rates, and analyzed it all both before and after the CSI series was launched. They then asked various convicted criminals for their opinions concerning shows such as CSI. The final stage of their research then involved running a series of experiments to test whether or not the TV show viewers would be better equipped to evade being caught in the course of committing a crime, and even reenacted a crime.

According to the results, there is no direct connection between watching shows like CSI and avoiding detection after committing a crime. However, the research did note some interesting patterns in terms of who scored better than whom in this context: In general, those who “scored better” (i.e. were better able to conceal illegal activities after watching shows like CSI) included: men more so than women; younger people more so than older people; and educated people more so than uneducated people. The researchers also found that those working in certain technical professions appeared to have particular “advantages” when it came to concealing crimes.

Criminal Defense Attorneys Who Understand Real Forensic Science

At The Baez Law Firm, we possess the very best connections to the right forensic experts who can ensure that a judge or jury is barred from receiving misleading scientific testimony. Our experienced forensic science lawyers serve clients throughout Florida and Massachusetts. Contact us today to find out how we can help.


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