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The CSI Effect: Popular Fiction About Forensic Science Affects Public Expectations About Real Forensic Science

8 Pages Posted: 12 Mar 2007  

N. J. Schweitzer

Arizona State University

Michael J. Saks

Arizona State University (ASU) - Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law

Abstract

Two of a number of hypotheses loosely referred to as the CSI Effect suggest that the television program and its spin-offs, which wildy exaggerate and glorify forensic science, affect the public, and in turn affect trials either by (a) burdening the prosecution by creating greater expectations about forensic science than can be delivered or (b) burden the defense by creating exaggerated faith in the capabilities and reliability of the forensic sciences. Surprisingly, no published empirical research puts these hypotheses to a test. The present study did so by presenting to mock jurors a simulated trial transcript which included the testimony of a forensic scientist. The case for conviction was relatively weak, unless the expert testimony could carry the case across the threshold of reasonable doubt. In addition to reacting to the trial evidence, respondents were asked about their television viewing habits. Findings: Compared to non-CSI viewers, CSI viewers were more critical of the forensic evidence presented at the trial, finding it less believable. Regarding their verdicts, 29% of non-CSI viewers said they would convict, compared to 18% of CSI viewers (not a statistically significant difference). Forensic science viewers expressed more confidence in their verdicts than did non-viewers. Viewers of general crime program, however, did not differ significantly from their non-viewing counterparts on any of the other dependent measures, suggesting that skepticism toward the forensic science testimony was specific to those whose diet consisted of heavy doses of forensic science television programs.

Keywords: CSI effect, empirical, forensic science

Suggested Citation

Schweitzer, N. J. and Saks, Michael J., The CSI Effect: Popular Fiction About Forensic Science Affects Public Expectations About Real Forensic Science. Jurimetrics, Vol. 47, p. 357, Spring 2007. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=967706

Nicholas J. Schweitzer (Contact Author)

Arizona State University ( email )

PO BOX 37100
Phoenix, AZ 85069-7100
United States
602-543-8133 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://lsprg.asu.edu

Michael J. Saks

Arizona State University (ASU) - Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law ( email )

Box 877906
Tempe, AZ 85287-7906
United States

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