Anecdotal claims from legal professionals suggest that jurors are increasingly expecting DNA evidence in criminal trials, due to the popularity of crime-drama television programs such as Crime Scene Investigation (CSI). This study extends research on the “CSI-effect” by investigating whether mock jurors’ verdict decisions differ as a function of the perception that television reflects real-life practices (perceived realism), evidence type, and evidence strength. Participants read a trial transcript in which the prosecution presented either strong or weak DNA/fingerprint/eyewitness evidence. They then provided a verdict and answered a questionnaire to assess their perceived realism of television programs, including crime-drama. For all three types of evidence, jurors high in perceived realism were more likely to convict than those low in perceived realism. Additionally, jurors were more likely to vote guilty if presented with DNA or fingerprint evidence compared to eyewitness testimony, while evidence strength only influenced verdicts in the eyewitness conditions. Results suggest that perceived realism is not associated with jurors’ expectations that DNA evidence be presented in court, and thus do not provide support for the purported CSI-effect. Perceived realism may actually be a desirable trait for prosecutors, as jurors high in perceived realism were in general more likely to convict.

CSI-effect, DNA, evidence strength, eyewitness testimony, fingerprint, juror decision-making, perceived realism
Cogent Social Sciences
Institute of Criminology and Criminal Justice

Ewanation, L.A. (Logan A.), Yamamoto, S. (Susan), Monnink, J. (Jordan), & Maeder, E.M. (2017). Perceived realism and the CSI-effect. Cogent Social Sciences, 3(1). doi:10.1080/23311886.2017.1294446