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The CSI Effect- Do TV Series Skew Our Perceptions of Forensic Science?

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Television can profoundly impact the way we view the world. As criminal justice becomes an even more popular theme for television series, experts are wondering how it effects our society’s perception of the real world criminal justice system.

The CSI Effect refers to the ability of popular television shows, such as the CSI franchise, to raise crime victims’, jury members’, and criminals’ expectations of forensic science, crime scene investigation, and DNA testing. This is troublesome because television show writers glamorize the criminal justice field, overstate the accuracy of certain techniques, and exaggerate the abilities of forensic science. As a result, the public perception of real world forensic science is often skewed. This can cause:

  • Courtroom prosecutors to feel more pressure to deliver more forensic evidence.
  • Forensic practitioners to face unreasonable expectations.
  • Jurors to be more critical of forensic science testimony and less persuaded by it.

Criminal behavior can also be altered by the CSI Effect. Experts have seen an increase in cases where criminals try to clean up the crime scene by burning or tampering with evidence.

Another interesting point to be made is that criminal justice education has been affected by shows like CSI. Because television has heightened the public’s interest in the field of criminal justice, more students are demanding degree programs related specifically to forensic studies. This has changed the educational background of many new forensic scientists coming into the field.

While each study conducted on this topic has produced different results, the fact that around 100 million people tune into criminal justice television shows weekly leads me to believe that the CSI Effect is something to keep an eye on!

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