The Science Behind: True Crime
When I was a kid, my dad LOVED movies relating to any sort of catastrophe. An apocalypse, a murder mystery, and robots taking over the world. A man stranded on an island, or worse on Mars. I could never understand why movies that gave me nightmares fascinated him so much. Whenever I questioned him about it, he would playfully respond that it helped him “feel prepared” for if it ever happened in real life.
Recently or at least in my recent observations, there's been an uptick in a liking for true crime. Especially in podcasts, I can’t get through a playlist without getting at least one ad about a new true crime show.
I started reading about it because I still hadn’t completely understood why people are so fascinated with hearing the gory details of a murder. However, after some research, I’m beginning to understand the psychology behind true crime…and it's actually pretty interesting.
So, here are the top 3 reasons why I think true crime is so addictive:
They help us feel prepared
I don’t think my dad realized all those years ago that what he said was actually a valid reason instead of a funny one. In the Elon Law Review, Megan Boorman finds that people like paying attention to things that could save their lives. A study in 2010, by members of the psychology department at the University of Illinois, showed that women are actually more drawn to true crime or content that contained information about how killers think. While that explains the trend in true crime obsession, it also sheds on the truth about the reality of women in society. Women have begun to feel so unsafe in society, they’ve resorted to watching murders unfold in order to feel prepared. It might seem silly, but multiple psychiatrists have found that true crime shows help people make sure that they never become the victims. The Los Angeles Times had an article about how women are into true crime because they see their reality in those books, shows, and podcasts.
2) We’re constantly surrounded by it
The news cycle we see today is constantly filled with real-life horror stories. Mental Floss uses the phrase “if it bleeds, it leads” suggesting that the media industry uses people's fascination with true crime to get views leading to more addiction. It's human nature to enjoy a spectacle and apparently, it's the spine-chilling ones we love the most. Our fixation on violence causes us to get super into true crime, and we get hooked on the serial killer stories that tempt our attention.
3) Because we like to feel like we’re a part of the whole mystery
While watching frightening content, we’re all glad that we’re neither the murderer nor the victim, but we also feel the urge to solve the mystery. We listen carefully to the clues and pay attention to the evidence so that we might get a thrill out of figuring out who’d done it. We like to feel like we’re part of the danger and excitement of a dark case, without actually being in danger. True crime gives an illusion of experiencing evil from within your comfort zone.
It’s amusing how when the world is full of darkness we become fascinated with it while simultaneously trying to escape from it. True crime is how some people escape from the boring cycles of life. It’s a source of adrenaline and intellectual insight. If the boundaries of the people whose stories are being told are respected and there are ethical trigger warnings, then true crime can become a cool topic to bond over.