Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The so-called "CSI effect." New Zealand researchers receive funding for research on whether CSI shows create unrealistic expectations about forensic science; stuff.co. (Neat reference to "The Sherlock Holmes effect." HL);

STORY: "TV shows having an influence on juries," by Sarah-Jane O'Connor, published by stuff.co on December 16, 2013. (Thanks to Dr. Anna Sandiford of the Forensic Scientist blog for drawing this story to our attention. HL);

GIST: "Crime shows like Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) are a big influence on juries and create unrealistic expectations about forensic science. This is among the issues New Zealand researchers are set to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars investigating. University of Canterbury historian Dr Heather Wolffram received $350,000 of Marsden funding to investigate how juries deal with forensic evidence. She said the CSI effect was a convenient description for the idea that "our popular culture is pretty saturated with images of forensic scientists as heroes and where forensic science is represented as providing certainty through physical evidence".But the influence of popular culture was not new to CSI, said Wolffram. "One hundred years ago you did get forensic scientists complaining of what we could call the 'Sherlock Holmes effect' giving a kind of skewed perspective to the public on how forensic science is conducted and what's possible to know through it." Wolffram said juries misunderstanding expert testimony could lead them to devalue that testimony altogether "or make juries extraordinarily sceptical". "What do we believe if we can't distinguish between the two experts? Will juries just make decisions based on whose rhetoric is more compelling? "I guess another question is, are we not giving juries enough credit? Because you could say you know the difference between the way television portrays things and what real life is," Wolffram said..........
Independent forensic scientist Dr Anna Sandiford said she had heard of juries in the United States that had been told, "you are not going to hear DNA evidence, but that doesn't mean to say that ‘Mr Jones' didn't commit this crime". "So people are actually having to be given a reason why they're not going to be hearing experts, because the expectation is that you must have it in order to be able to solve the crime," Sandiford said."

The entire story can be found at:


See also Dr. Anna Sandiford's related post: "In my experience over the last 12 months, as a phenomenon the CSI effect raises less questions at presentations and lectures I give than it used to. In NZ at least. Most questions these days seems to revolve around the theme of “I know it’s not like it is on TV so what are the limitations of expert evidence?” I find this to be a pretty informed question and suggests that the initial rush of belief in TV programmes has now been met with some people who are thinking to question it. These are the sorts of people we want on juries."


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