Speed Reads

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No, watching CSI won't make you a better criminal

It turns out that no matter how much CSI you watch, you will not become a more perfect criminal.

A group of German psychologists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz came to that conclusion after conducting several experiments on the validity of the so-called "CSI effect," which claims criminals who watch TV crime shows are more likely to evade capture. "We are able to state with relative certainty that people who watch CSI are no better at covering their tracks than other people," said study supervisor Dr. Andreas Baranowski, crushing the dreams of habitual binge-watchers with criminal aspirations everywhere.

To test the hypothetical CSI effect, the researchers gathered subjects to play out their staged crimes in two different experiments. In one test, the subjects were made to tidy up a fake murder scene. They were divided into two groups: those who watched shows like CSI and those who did not. In the second test, the would-be criminals were asked to first assemble their own crime scene, and then do the work of covering their tracks.

In the end, the researchers found no sound proof that knowledge garnered from TV crime thrillers actually helped CSI fans pull off the perfect crime. Real-life criminals consulted by researchers additionally agreed that crime shows were of little instructive value. What researchers did find, however, was that men, younger people, and those with higher education levels were the most effective at creating and cleaning up their own crime scenes — so if your 18-year-old son is watching a lot of old Ted Danson clips during his freshman year at Yale, maybe keep an eye out.

Read more about the experiment at Science Direct.