There is no doubt that true-crime documentaries, books, and films have existed for many years now, and nevertheless, they continue to be popular in society. The question remains, why is true crime, with its all-too-often disastrously fatal results, so appealing to us all? What motivates this appeal? Psychologists, from Rasmussen University, have come up with four main reasons why we are so fascinated by true crime. The first being we are curious as to what drives people to do the unthinkable, we want to preserve our belief in justice, we’re drawn to the adrenaline rush, and we’re driven by our own longing for survival.
Crime reveals our society and norms, as well as our fears and beliefs. According to evolutionary scientists, we are attracted to these stories because homicide, rape, and robbery have all played important roles in human society. The success of horror films, and the amount of violence in the news, indicate that "morbid curiosity is a common psychological trait." It satisfies our innate drive to answer puzzles and mysteries. It also enables us to investigate the darker sides of mankind from a safe distance and gives us insight into why other people behave the way they do. We can experience extreme circumstances indirectly. It's in our nature to be sensitive to criminal misdeeds, and we naturally want to know the “who,” “what,” “when,” and “where” so we can understand what drives criminals and better safeguard ourselves.
The desire many people have to understand what motivates people to perform such vile acts is at the center of our obsession with gruesome crime tales. "We all have a dark side, though I would say most are light gray rather than inky black, and perhaps that's why so many of us are obsessed with the sinister doings of others," says Janice Holly Booth, author of "A Voice out of Nowhere: Inside the Mind of a Mass Murderer." She suggests that our fascination with true-crime stories reflects our curiosity about the inner workings of the mind. "For me, the fascination is not so much with what these broken people do as it is with why they do it."
The second reason why society is fascinated by these true crimes is that as a society we want to believe in the system of justice, many of us tendhave the tendency to ensure that the "bad guy" is held accountable for his or her heinous actions, which is why we have this appeal behind the story. The concept of justice is fundamental to any society. The idea that individuals who have committed crimes should be held accountable for their actions is essential to maintaining social order and ensuring the safety and well-being of all members of society. The appeal of stories that depict justice being served is a reflection of our innate desire for fairness and justice. There are many instances where justice is not served or where innocent people are wrongly convicted. The system must beIt is crucial for the system to be constantly evaluated and improved to ensure that it is fair and just for all individuals involved.
It is evident that people are intrigued to feel the rush of adrenaline from hearing crime stories. While the actions of a serial killer are horrifying to witness, many people are unable to look away due to the thrill of the spectacle, according to Bonn. "As a source of popular-culture entertainment, serial killers enable us to experience fear and horror in a controlled environment, where the threat is exciting but not real," he wrote in Psychology Today. The rush of adrenaline created by suspense and the gruesome act itself complements each other and further enhancesenhance this interest.
Lastly, it is evident that our fears and anxiety motivate us to learn everything we can in order to protect ourselves, for survival. True crime invokes our natural survival instinct, it provokes the emotional response of experiencing the same thing. Understanding what the victims did or did not do in these circumstances allows us to feel more in charge of the situation. We think that watching these shows will help us know how to behave if we ever find ourselves in similar circumstances, preparing us for the reality of these situations. This could explain why women are more likely to be interested in true-crime tales than men. The victims in the harrowing stories documented by our favored true crime sources are almost always women.
Ph.D., Richard Lettieri. “Why Are We So Interested in Crime Stories?” Psychology Today, 24 Sept. 2021, https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/decoding-madness/202109/why-are-we-so-interested-in-crime-stories. Accessed 23 Mar. 2023.
Spanner, Holly. “Why Are We so Obsessed with True Crime?” BBC Science Focus Magazine, 10 Aug. 2020, https://www.sciencefocus.com/the-human-body/why-are-we-so-obsessed-with-true-crime/. Accessed 23 Mar. 2023.
“The Psychology Behind Society’s True Crime Obsession.” Rasmussen University, https://www.rasmussen.edu/degrees/justice-studies/blog/true-crime-obsession/. Accessed 23 Mar. 2023.
University of Law. “Why Are We so Obsessed with True Crime?” University of Law, 16 Feb. 2022, https://www.law.ac.uk/resources/blog/why-we-love-true-crime/. Accessed 23 Mar. 2023.