True crime movies, TV series and podcasts seem to be gaining popularity by the second, but why do we love to tune in? Is it because we’re all morbid at heart, or are there other factors that can explain the obsession?
Experts say it’s actually common to like true crime because of many different factors. So why are so many of us obsessed with true crime?
1. We can’t look away
Experts claim that one of the main reasons people love true crime is because it’s so awful they can’t seem to look away. “Serial killers tantalize people much like traffic accidents, train wrecks, or natural disasters,” Scott Bonn, professor of criminology at Drew University and author of “Why We Love Serial Killers,” wrote in TIME Magazine.
“In other words, the actions of a serial killer may be horrible to behold but much of the public simply cannot look away due to the spectacle,” Bonn said. When we hear stories of unthinkable criminal actions, we can’t help but listen.
2. It helps us feel prepared
People love to tune into true crime movies and series because they want to know what happened in order to avoid meeting the same fate. We take these gruesome stories as potential threats to our own well-being and want to know what we should be on the lookout for.
Experts have also noted that women in particular seem to love true crime. One explanation could be that women fear being the victim of violent attacks more than men do. Although men are four times more likely to be victims of homicide, women make up 70% of intimate partner homicide victims.
“I’ve come to believe that what draws women to true crime tales is an instinctual understanding that this is the world they live in,” Crime novelist Megan Abbott wrote in the Los Angeles Times. “And these books are where the concerns and challenges of their lives are taken deadly seriously.”
3. We’re trying to solve the mystery
People love puzzles, and true crime shows let us take a crack at solving a mystery. It’s the same phenomenon as our obsession with Scooby Doo as kids, except much darker.
Why watch another rom-com if you can put on your detective hat and try to figure out a mystery before the cops can? A lot of true crime TV specials and podcasts are set up to allow the audience to try to figure it out before they’re told who the perpetrator was.
4. It gives us an adrenaline rush
This is probably the most straight-forward explanation of why we love true crime. Many true crime stories are thrilling, and this gives viewers an adrenaline rush that can be very addicting. It’s a similar rush to riding a rollercoaster. Once you get that first adrenaline rush, you want to do it again and again. And the best part? You don’t even have to get out of bed for this kind of adrenaline rush, meaning you’re not putting yourself in any real, physical danger.
5. Evolution might make us tune in
Dr. Marissa Harrison, associate professor of psychology at Penn State Harrisburg, told Hopes&Fears that she thinks people like to watch true crime because we’ve evolved to pay attention to things that could harm us so that we can better avoid them.
“You would pay attention to, and have interest in, the horrific, because in the ancestral environment, those who ‘tuned in’ to horrible events left more descendants, logically because they were able to escape harmful stimuli,” Harrison says.