TV Crime Dramas Skew Perception of System

USA TODAY, December 2009 | Go to article overview

TV Crime Dramas Skew Perception of System


People who watch forensic and crime dramas on television are more likely than nonviewers to have a distorted perception of the U.S. criminal justice system, maintain researchers from Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind.

"These kinds of shows, such as 'CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,' 'Law & Order: 'Cold Case,' and 'The Closer' are some of the most popular programs on television today, so it's important that we understand how they might influence people," explains Glenn Sparks, professor of communication.

"We found that people who watch these programs regularly are more likely to overestimate the frequency of serious crimes, misperceive important facts about crime, and misjudge the number of workers in the judicial system."

Sparks and Susan Sarapin, a doctoral student in communication, conducted surveys with jury-eligible adults about their crime-television-show viewing and their perceptions of crime and the judicial system. "Many people die as a result of being murdered in these types of shows, and we found that heavy television-crime viewers estimate two-and-a-half times more real-world deaths due to murder than nonviewers," Sarapin points out.

"People's perceptions also are distorted in regards to a number of other serious crimes. Heavy TV-crime viewers consistently overestimate the frequency of crime in the real world. …

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