Monday, January 16, 2006

The "CSI" Effect

Goe sent me this link today about the effect CBS's CSI is having on jurors. The article says that the show has influenced how jurors view evidence in court cases. In particular, they are demanding definitive forensic evidence, despite the fact that most cases don't have that luxury. This came on the heels of our conversation last night about the effect 24 has on people, convincing them that terrorist plots are always twenty-four hour ticking bombs where the terrorists' identities are always known and they use each other's names on the phone. My claim was that stories like 24 are what people use to justify torture (see my earlier post on this topic).

But when you think about it, haven't stories, whether on television, radio, books, or just poems passed down orally always done this? When people don't have first hand experience with something, they rely on what they hear in stories. Nothing unusual about that, there's no way anyone could have first hand knowledge of everything. It's just important to recognize that stories are just that, and are not always accurate representations of reality. Doesn't make them any less entertaining or relevant. I'm sure there are lots of examples through the ages. The first that came to mind was the story of the fall of Satan as told in John Milton's Paradise Lost. How many people actually believe his accounts of Heaven and Hell are spiritual truths, when in fact it's just a story?


At 11:59 PM, Blogger Aurora Mikayla said...


I'm new to this whole blogging thing and just stumbled across yours, but I couldn't agree more. People are often influenced by stories and what they hear when they don't have first hand experience. Look at the impact The Da Vinci Code has had on the world, and the way people view Christianity, and the questions being raised, based solely on a story. However, having read the book that the Da Vinci Code is based on, there's a lot to that story that is missing, but some people are taking it as the gospel because they haven't taken the time to learn about it... and I just realized I'm rambling on in your blog, sorry about that.

Anyway, just wanted to say that you have a very insightful point and I look forward to reading more of them.

At 8:56 PM, Blogger Thomas said...

There was a good article in some magazine that interviewed a real crime scene investigator and he mentioned the CSI effect a while back. An interesting point is that many of the tests they run don't even exist. As an example the guy mentioned that there isn't some machine you just toss things in and it can tell you the exact chemical makeup of every substance and the products that it is used in.

Taking this outside CSI I think that many shows probably warp perception. I can bet that every person has a warped view of courtroom proceedings due to years of law and order, matlock, etc etc. I'm also guessing most CIA agents don't run around like James Bond. I also seriously doubt a single person at the NSA looks like Halle Berry.

My feelings towards this (to bastardize one of your previous posts) "It is just fiction" While most jurors probably are a little disappointed they aren't seeing DNA evidence of jay walking they are most likely more disappointed with courtrooms not resembling the high drama that ensues every time Jack McKoy enters the room.

I will stop here as I think I have lost all semblance of rational thought

At 11:38 PM, Blogger Dan Craig said...


Thanks for the post. I'm glad to know someone finds my ramblings interesting. And I agreen, Da Vinci Code is right on. When you mentioned the book it was based on, do you mean Holy Blood, Holy Grail? I haven't read it, but it'd be interesting to know what other details they have in that book that Da Vinci Code left out. Even then, you still have to wonder. Thomas, you remember when we watched that show on TLC about all this? The Holy Blood guy was hard to take seriously.


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