Document Type

Honors Paper


Audrey Zakriski

Publication Date



Since its beginnings in the late 1940s, the crime-based media genre has continuously maintained its status as an entertainment favorite, and portrayals of violence and crime in the media have led to an increasingly strong, close relationship between viewers and this type of media. A problem that goes widely undiscussed about this genre is that the perpetrators of these violent crimes are often portrayed as suffering from some mental illness. The goal of this study was to understand how fictional crime-based television dramas impact general public understanding of the relationship between violence and mental illness, while also examining the best ways to combat misinformation and stereotypes perpetuated by fictional crime dramas. A total of 45 participants from Connecticut College completed the study in its entirety. Participants were first asked to complete measures of familiarity with mental illness, attitudes toward mental illness, perceived dangerousness of mental patients, and a measure of social distance. Participants later attended an in-person screening of an episode from the popular fictional crime-based drama, Criminal Minds. After watching the episode, attitudes toward mental illness were again assessed. This was immediately followed by one of four randomly assigned corrective interventions and completion of all prior measures. The first hypothesis that participants who report more frequent crime drama viewing would show a greater desire for social distance, as well as hold more stigmatizing attitudes and perceive those with mental illnesses as more dangerous, was partially supported. By self-report, crime drama viewing was not associated with stigmatizing attitudes, and in some cases was associated with less stigmatizing attitudes. However, after viewing a crime drama episode, participants showed an increase in stigmatizing attitudes. The second hypothesis that corrective intervention showing people familiar with mental illness speaking about mental illness – specifically a mental health professional – would be the most effective in correcting misinformation and in lowering stigmatizing attitudes post-episode was supported. Specifically, the text disclaimer method with audio was less effective than a video testimonial. Implications of these findings and directions for future research are discussed.

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Psychology Commons



The views expressed in this paper are solely those of the author.