Opening Statement and Project Proposal: Attitudes and Belief’s Obtained from Crime Shows

For my project, I will be learning about the psychology behind crime shows. I will discover how people’s beliefs and attitudes are influenced by crime shows on television. I decided to further investigate this topic because I love crime shows. One thing that I have noticed while watching some popular crime series on television or Netflix is the attitude I gain when watching these shows. An example of this could be my personal belief that law enforcement always wins regardless of the circumstances and that mentally ill people are more likely to become criminals than someone who is not mentally ill. These beliefs are drawn from crime shows that I am hooked to. I also picked my topic because I am a Communication Studies major. In the Communication Studies major here at R-MC, we explore and investigate the media. With connecting my project topic with my major, I can use my prior knowledge to help draw new conclusions. I can also use these conclusions to help advance my studies as a student.

For my overall project, I will hopefully be addressing two audiences. My first audience will be the public. I want the American public to be aware of my topic to prevent external biases they could possibly obtain from watching crime series on television. The second audience I will be addressing is the psychology field. By informing psychologists of my research found in my project, they could possibly advance their data and knowledge (even though they are already experts!).

My project goals are very distinct. I want to inform my audience of the possibility of crime television shows impacting their attitudes and beliefs. I also want to be able to conduct research that will be beneficial for my audience. I want them to be aware of these beliefs they could obtain. I want to discover how attitudes are shaped by these shows considering the topics of race, ethnicity, mental health, fear of crime, view of law enforcement and criminals, along with jury impacts. These topics are very structured and can help prove that biases and distinct beliefs are formed from the crime shows on television.

If someone gave me ten-thousand dollars to expand my project, I would conduct an advanced psychological study. I would take a wide range of participants and survey them asking them questions regarding crime shows and their beliefs. Or I could ask people to watch certain crime shows and survey them on how they feel. I would definitely fill in the gaps from other researchers’ work once I feel I have learned and understood more. With my money, I would then expand scholars previous work within this area. I would want to be part of a psychological research, and investigating crime shows and how they can influence the public’s attitudes and perspectives would be great. With a bank account of ten-thousand whopping dollars, I would also spend some of it on a public outreach campaign to help inform people about the negative side of crime shows, like how one views criminals and law enforcement based off the shows we watch all the time on television.

Curated Sources

Dominick, J. R. (1974). Children’s Viewing of Crime Shows and Attitudes on Law Enforcement. Journalism Quarterly, 5-12. Retrieved November 15, 2018, from

This mass communication study is associated with my project because it is great research about how children view crime shows and then their attitudes on law enforcement. This study partook in four NYC schools, where 371 fifth graders filled out questionnaires. These questionnaires were modified based off their ages and resulted that for these children viewing of crime shows was positively correlated with being able to identify a character as someone associated with law enforcement, belief that criminals usually get caught and know and understand civil rights when arrested (e.g., right to remain silent). Another result of this study included that when the child valued TV more, the less likely they would be to inform the police about a witnessed crime.

Carlson, J. M. (1983). Crime Show Viewing by Pre-Adults: The Impact on Attitudes Toward Civil Liberties. Communication Research, 529-552. Retrieved November 14, 2018, from file:///C:/Users/Taylor2/Downloads/carlson1983.pdf.

This research by James M. Carlson at Providence College reports that preadults, ages eleven to eighteen years old, are influenced by crime shows that they watch at their age. This research was conducted in 1983 and may be considered older research. However, it is still relevant for today’s time, especially now that television use has increased from the 80s and technology has advanced. These preadults’ attitudes toward civil liberties are impacted by shows that involve some type of criminal ‘reality’. In this study, Carlson describes how communication researchers are beginning to connect consumption of entertainment programs to psychological, socio-political attitudes. These results are important for my audience to see because it shows a specific group, preadults, being impacted by crime-based television shows.

Tukachinsky, R., Mastro, D., & Yarchi, M. (2015). Documenting Portrayals of Race/Ethnicity on Primetime Television over a 20-Year Span and Their Association with National-Level Racial/Ethnic Attitudes. Journal of Social Issues, 71(1), 17-38. doi:10.1111/josi.12094. Retrieved November 14, 2018, from file:///C:/Users/Taylor2/Downloads/Tukachinsky_et_al-2015-Journal_of_Social_Issues%20(1).pdf

This research conducted examines the association between the prevalence of ethnic minority characters (such as Blacks and Latinos) on television shows and compares White attitudes because of it. The conductors of this study chose to employ a repeated cross-sectional survey design, looking specifically at the tensions between internal validity and generalizability. My audience needs to understand the biases that occur on television shows so looking at this study is prevalent. They also touch on crime shows and their influence on Blacks, because exposure to shows like Cops elevates perceptions of crime rates among Blacks.

Oliver, M. (1994). Portrayals of Crime, Race, and Aggression in “Reality-Based” Police Shows: A Content Analysis. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 179-192. Retrieved November 15, 2018, from

This study is important to include in my sources because it investigates reality-based police shows, like Cops, Top Cops, FBI, and America’s Most Wanted. Oliver suggests that the portrayals of crime-related topics in news and fictional police programs may serve to cultivate perceptions of a dangerous world, to intensify racism, reduce support for civil liberties, and promote positive remarks of police. Oliver recorded five programs and coded ‘main’ police in these shows as well as the ‘main’ criminal(s) to note the gender, race, and aggressive behavior of each individual in each category. These findings showed that these shows have underrepresented blacks and overrepresented whites as police officers, in comparison to government statistics. They also found that police are more likely to use aggressive behavior, whereas the suspects are more likely to ‘suffer’ from these behaviors.

n.a. (2013). Police Department Race and Ethnicity Demographic Data. Governing. Retrieved November 17, 2018, from

This source is a statistical piece that will allow my audience to see law enforcement populations from a racial and ethnical demographic perspective. It is significant to show accurate data on this controversial topic, so by having this website’s data to include will help those understand the diversity of the police departments all across the United States.

CRIME in the United States: Table 43. (2013, August 07). FBI: UCR. Retrieved November 18, 2018, from

This is another statistical piece of evidence I will be incorporating in my project. This information is from the FBI: UCR website and gives three tables for arrests in 2012 categorized by race. I feel my audience also needs to see the demographics of people arrested to compare white criminals to black. For example, in 2012 over six million whites were arrested compared to over two million blacks. It is interesting seeing this and comparing to the crime shows, who, some say, only use black actors and actresses as criminals.

Dienfenbach, D. L., & West, M. D. (2007). Television and Attitudes Toward Mental Health Issues: Cultivation Analysis and the Third-Person Effect. Journal of Community Psychology, 32(2), 181-195. doi:10.1002/jcop.20142 Retrieved November 14, 2018, from file:///C:/Users/Taylor2/Downloads/Diefenbach_et_al-2007-Journal_of_Community_Psychology%20(1).pdf

Television shows don’t always trigger a higher chance of attitudes toward race. Another issue besides race is mental illness. Mental ill characters on television shows are portrayed as 10 times more likely to be a violent criminal than nonmentally disordered characters, according to Dienfenbach and West in this study. Using cultivation analysis and a community survey, they generated hypotheses to examine viewer attitudes toward the mentally ill citizens. Results of this study showed that people are in fact reluctant to admit these portrayals that they have and how it impacts them in real life (an example is avoiding mentally ill people by not wanting to live next to them). At the end of this study, the researchers advise for mental health professionals and policy makers to help alleviate change for this stereotype.

Wilson, C., Nairn, R., Coverdale, J., & Panapa, A. (1999). Mental Illness Depictions in Prime-Time Drama: Identifying the Discursive Resources. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 232-239. Retrieved November 15, 2018, from

This study’s objective was to determine how the mentally ill are depicted in prime-time tv shows, similar to my previous one. However, this study refers to Australasian television. The reason I am showing my audience this study from Australia is to be able to relate other countries other than the United States to get a global perspective on mental illness on TV. Although these may not be crime dramas, it is still important to understand the severity of these stereotypes. They studied 14 programs and 20 mental ill characters and found that these characters are represented as dangerous/aggressive (physical violence like killing others, threats, suicide and emotional outbursts), unpredictability, dangerous/incompetence, and untrustworthy. Overall, this study shows the negative depictions of mental ill and contribute to the stigmatization of this population.

Hayes-Smith, R. M., & Levett, L. M. (2011). Jury’s Still Out: How Television and Crime Show Viewing Influences Juror’s Evaluations of Evidence. Applied Psychology in Criminal Justice, 29-46. Retrieved November 18, 2018, from 7-1pdfhayes.pdf_1317914509.pdf

This study specified a distinct interaction between the level of forensic evidence and crime show viewing in that those who watched crime shows were more likely to favor the defense than those who did not in some evidence conditions. They describe the cultivation theory, which argues that heavy TV watching influences people’s perceptions of social reality. Described is also the CSI Effect, which is defined in terms of the TV medium through crime shows cultivating one’s perceptions of social reality, specifically, their perceptions of forensic science.

Smith, P. (2018, April 05). This Is Your Brain on True Crime Stories. Retrieved November 17, 2018, from

This is just a simple article in the Huffington Post written by journalist Paige Smith uncovering the psychological reasons why we enjoy crime shows and how they impact us mentally. Interviewing professors of psychology and other qualified individuals, this article explains that we find these crime shows fascinating because it offers different parts of the human psyche. But at the same time, with continuous exposure to true crime shows, it can negatively affect your body because you are so tense and stressed. This is a good article to let my audience know a little background of the crime shows impacting us, psychologically.