Saturday, April 01, 2006

Even White Collar TV Crime is Violent

Television never lets me down. In a recent posting, I examined how recent data collected in my lab again show that TV viewers over-estimate the proportion of crime that is violent. For what it's worth, arousing content draws us to the screen, and keeps our eyes on that screen. Ratings go up; advertisers pay more. And violence is a cheap elicitor of physiological arousal.

On Friday night, my wife and I were watching the CBS drama Close to Home. The show started with a case involving real estate fraud. I thought the set-up was interesting, but my wife quickly told me she was bored with the show since "there was no murder or anything." Hmmm.

However, television did not let her down for long. White collar real estate fraud apparently not interesting enough, and quickly one of the witnesses was murdered. Aha! Violence. Ratings.

This is just one exemplar of television's "take" on reality. Although I am sure that white-collar witnesses do get murdered from time-to-time, it cannot be the regular occurrence it is on television, or justice would grind to a halt.

This episode of Close to Home is just one more example of the TV reality that not only is white collar crime underrepresented, it is often accompanied by a far more violent development.

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