Episode 3 – Why are we so obsessed with true crime?

WARNING: This episode contains discussion related to violent crime that may be distressing for some listeners.

In episode 3, Aleena and Janine admit to spending countless hours engaging in true crime media. They really want to get to the bottom of why they, and so many of us, are so obsessed with this stuff! The research they present sheds light on the psychology and evolutionary biology that might be behind our motivations. Meanwhile Janine explains her recent deep dive into primary school handwriting rules and downloadable fonts, while Aleena reveals how she tried to use science to win a culinary debate in the family (it didn’t go so well).

Killer, victim, or hero: who’s driving people’s interest in stories of mass murder and why?

Media coverage of mass murder typically centres on the perpetrator. But this study suggests we’re more interested in the courageous hero who intervenes. It seems these stories may offer valuable information about how to avoid or avert such horrific situations ourselves…

Levin, J. & Wiest, J. B. (2018) Covering mass murder: An experimental examination of the effect of news focus—killer, victim, or hero—on reader interest. American Behavioral Scientist, 62(2): 181-194.

No notoriety

The No Notoriety Campaign urges news media to stop publishing detailed information about the perpetrators of mass murder. This could help to stop copycat crimes by depriving perpetrators of fame and notoriety. (And the Levin & Wiest study suggests we aren’t as interested in these details as news media decision-makers might think, anyway).

Women in particular seem to be drawn to tales of true crime, but why?

True crime book reviews on Amazon appear to be dominated by women, and women indeed opted for true crime novels over other violent genres in a hypothetical ‘bookstore’ scenario. There seem to be several reasons why women are drawn to this genre. In fact, many of these reasons are true for men too, although to a lesser extent. One of the key motivators seems to be the potential to learn defense or survival strategies, to see warning signs and predict who around them may be a threat.

Vicary, A. M. & Fraley, R. C. (2010). Captured by True Crime: Why Are Women Drawn to Tales of Rape, Murder, and Serial Killers? Social Psychological and Personality Science, 1(1): 81-86.

Necessary tangent

Did fraudulent ‘entrepreneur’ Elizabeth Holmes fake her deep baritone voice to get ahead and fool more people? We’ll let you decide: check out the podcast and documentary. If you really want to get ‘rabbit-holing’, may we suggest this video and this piece.

What brought out our inner square?

Janine has an exciting update: Words with Friends confirmed plans to add ‘ze’ to the player dictionary! It’s not playable just yet, but you will definitely hear about it when it is!

But wait, there’s more. Janine investigated letter and number formation rules for primary school children, got ridiculously excited to find downloadable fonts, then became flummoxed to find stark differences based one’s state of residence. Aleena does not find this interesting or useful, but Janine knows that everyone else will, so be sure to check out the craziness here… how is your child taught to do a ‘q’?! And of course, be sure to download the accurate fonts here – never again will print outs for your child have ‘the wrong letters’!

Meanwhile Aleena tried to win an argument with Janine and Aleena’s dad about the importance of resting meat after cooking. She happened upon the wisdom of one Meathead Goldwyn and his science advisor, ended up stunned by what she found, and is now in the midst of a weird an existential crisis.

Image credit: David von Diemar on Unsplash

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