Popular television shows inaccurately portray violent crime

May 19, 2009

Researchers at Mayo Clinic compared two popular television shows, CSI and CSI: Miami, to actual U.S. homicide data, and discovered clear differences between media portrayals of violent deaths versus actual murders. This study complements previous research regarding media influences on public health perception. Mayo Clinic researchers present their findings today at the American Psychiatric Association annual meeting in San Francisco.

Previous studies have indicated television influences individual health behaviors and public health perceptions. Timothy Lineberry, M.D., a psychiatrist at Mayo Clinic, says "We make a lot of our decisions as a society based on information that we have, and television has been used to provide public health messages." Researchers chose to compare the crimes on CSI and CSI: Miami to real homicides because of the shows' combined audiences of more than 43 million viewers annually. They sought to determine how representative the portrayal of violent death crimes on the two series compared with data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) National Violent Death Reporting System.

When researchers compared the shows to the CDC data, they discovered the strongest misrepresentations were related to alcohol use, relationships, and race among perpetrators and victims. Previous studies of actual statistics have shown that both perpetrator and victim were often under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs when the crime occurred, differing from what the shows portrayed. Also, CSI and CSI: Miami were more likely to have described the victim and the attacker as Caucasian, which is misrepresentative. Finally, according to the CDC data, homicide victims typically knew their assailant; however, the television series were more likely to have portrayed the perpetrator as a stranger. All of these findings were significantly different when compared to the data.

Dr. Lineberry says, "If we believe that there is a lack of association with alcohol, that strangers are more likely to attack, and that homicide doesn't represent particular groups of people, it's difficult to create interventions that the general public supports." Other authors contributing to this study included Christopher Janish and Melanie Buskirk, both from Mayo Medical School.

Source: Mayo Clinic (news : web)

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User comments : 8

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5 / 5 (1) May 19, 2009
Doh. Wilma! To the moon, Alice! What'cha talkin' 'bout Willis?
5 / 5 (1) May 19, 2009
They killed Kenny!!!
5 / 5 (5) May 19, 2009
It's amazing how many unattractive, shoddily dressed, sleep deprived, emaciated, incoherent people don't have roles in TV shows.

Sometimes, you just have to get your information from comic bo ... I mean reality.
5 / 5 (2) May 20, 2009
If people think television shows are supposed to be a realistic portrayal of life.... We got bigger problems.
1 / 5 (1) May 20, 2009
Who knew?
5 / 5 (1) May 20, 2009
I can't see a better way to spend money. Who would've thunk TV doesn't reflect reality? I really thought the Earth stopped rotating making it always sunset, and that the water was really that colour in CSI: Miami. Thanks for ruining it for me...
not rated yet May 20, 2009
I thought it was going to talk about the news and various 'real life' based shows, which lead you to believe violence is a lot worse and more common than it actually is.
'What a waste of money' is what I thought when I saw it was to do with CSI.
5 / 5 (2) May 20, 2009
CreepyD does have a SERIOUS point. I'm a Katrina survivor (as well as Camile and other lesser huricanes). The media profits from sensationalism. The reporters first overhype the dangers, leading to panic and unnecessary evacuations, then when a real disaster hits (like Katrina) they've already used up all the words that MIGHT have properly conveyed reality. The lense and the mike are too small to capture the extent of damange (miles and miles of it) and the imagination and language are already exhausted from the warnings. They compensate by fixation on the extreme cases, which often are cases in which the suffering has been contributed to by adiction, criminality or mental illness, again failing to properly portray the very real plight of the majority. ...and most ignored are the coping mechanisms! The ability of the human being to overcome physical and mental adversity needs to trumpeted from the rooftops! Yet success is not "sensational" in the media market, and is ignored. (Unless, of course, the successful individuals happen to be of minority extraction, gay persuation and disabled.) Indeed, the TV not only fails to properly educate about reality in the fictional shows, but also in news and... any surprise here? ...the weather.

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