DOI: 10.5176/2301-3729_JMComm12.10

Authors: Susan H. Sarapin, Glenn G. Sparks

Abstract: This is a quantitative exploration of one construct of the CSI effect, the presumed impact of law- and crime-oriented television consumption on the attitudes and behavior of mock jurors as they relate to the Ohio judicial instructions to disregard inadmissible evidence in the form of outside media influences. The value of this communication experiment lies in its use of a complex yet realistic method for empirically testing a media effect, which, to date, has been dismissed by legal and psychology scholars as merely anecdotal. The study, informed by Bandura’s self-efficacy model of his social cognitive theory and Wegner’s theory of ironic processes of mental control, involved a heterogeneous sample of 230 jury-eligible citizens aged 18–70 (M = 36.6 years). In addition to completing three surveys, mock jurors were divided among 36 juries in a 2 X 2 experimental design (nine juries for each of four conditions). The first factor was admonition at two levels: (a) minimal forget and (b) elaborate forget. The second factor was cognitive load at two levels: (a) low and (b) high. The major measures were self-efficacy in the evaluation of physical scientific evidence, verdict, verdict confidence, and verbal references to TV crime shows during deliberation. The most important findings were: (a) frequent viewers of televised crime drama had a greater likelihood to convict, greater self-perceived ability to evaluate forensic evidence, and greater verdict certainty; and (b) there was an interaction effect of admonition and cognitive load. This research supports the existence of the CSI effect.
Keywords: CSI effect; crime drama; TV; juror; verdict; verdict certainty; ironic processes; inadmissible evidence


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