Unusual study examines the CSI effect
Crime series, like CSI, have become very popular in the past two decades. They have given the population an insight into forensic evidence. So far, however, there has never been an investigation of the benefits that potential criminals can derive from the knowledge that shows about police work reveal. In the worst case, it is feared that criminals will learn from the shows to better hide a crime. Researchers from the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz have examined this topic in more detail in a recent study.
The team of psychologists at Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, headed by Professor Heiko Hecht, is now giving the all-clear: In an experimental study, German researchers were unable to link the knowledge that viewers can draw from popular forensic series and ability to hide a crime. The study, which was published in the "International Journal of Law, Crime and Justice". is the first to deal with this question.
The CSI effect
The reason for this study was the so-called "CSI effect". The effect is spoken in US law when the effects of criminological television series on the behavior of both jury members and criminals are meant. In fact, there were juries in the U.S. that were rejected by prosecutors for claiming to be fans of well-known crime series. The jury was supposed to mimic their behavior from the series. Many people also suspected that the series had an impact on the behavior of police officers, judges and criminals.
"For many years it was suspected that there were certain connections in this regard, even if there were no suitable studies," said Dr. Andreas Baranowski in a press release. He and his colleagues have now conducted four separate studies to get to the bottom of this myth.
The four steps of the study
In a first step, the psychologists examined statistics from the databases of the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA). They compared crime rates in the years before the launch of the CSI series with those in subsequent years. Then they asked 24 convicted criminals in prisons whether they think series like CSI can help escape law enforcement. The researchers then used a complex experimental scenario to investigate whether viewers of crime fiction series would actually be better equipped to hide the traces of a reenacted crime. In a fourth test, crimes were simulated using a doll's house.
No CSI effect for criminals
Overall, the researchers found no link between watching forensic series and the ability to successfully prevent detection after a crime. However, the male subjects in the fourth part of the experiment did better than the female ones. The younger participants were also better experimental criminals than the older test subjects. In addition, more highly qualified study participants did better than less well-trained subjects. In addition, male subjects in technical professions appeared to have certain advantages in hiding crimes.
This suggests that the perfect criminal would be a young man with a good education and a technical profession.
The CSI effect is an old shoe
Baranowski pointed out that critical voices against crime series such as Sherlock Holmes, Quincy and Law & Order have been raised in the past. "We can now dispel some of the myths that have been circulating in the media and other publications for 20 years because we can say with relative certainty that people who see CSI cannot hide their traces better than others," explains Baranowski. (fp)