This post is also available in Dutch.
In the past few years, many YouTube channels, podcasts, TV shows, and series based on true crime have gained popularity. It might seem that this interest is recent, but pamphlets about street murders already exited in the 17th century. What is the reason we like it so much? And is it okay for us to do so?
There might be an evolutionary benefit
According to the research psychologist Coltrane Scrivner from the Aarhus University in Denmark, the reason why we are interested in gruesome stories of murders and various crimes lies in the biology of our evolution. Dr. Scrivner states that, since the world might be a dangerous place for us, we are made to be curious about potentially dangerous situations. He says: “We’re curious about threats in our environment. So anytime we get a hint that there might be information about danger out there, the attention mechanisms in our minds sort of kick on and guide us toward that information”.
We like to be scared!
Adrenaline is a hormone produced in our bodies that regulates many important functions like breathing and heartbeat, but its effects can also be addictive. Probably without realizing it, we often seek it in our daily lives, for instance, when we play dangerous sports or watch a horror movie. Similarly, we experience fear and horror while consuming true crime content, but in a controlled and safe manner, when the “threat is exciting but not real”.
True crime helps us manage our fears
According to the psychotherapist Kathleen Check, consuming true crime content can give a false sense of being able to see inside the mind of a criminal, “thus creating a psychological protective barrier: ‘If I know how criminals operate, I can protect myself’”. Some of us might feel guilty finding true crime stories entertaining, but “studies show some survivors feel like true crime puts a voice to feelings and experiences that are not always widely heard in our society”.
This being said, is it healthy to be interested in true crime stories? Dr. Montel, a clinical and corporate psychologist, said it’s normal to be interested in true crime to some extent. It all depends on “how obsessed you are? If all you do is read about crime and all you do – regardless of the nature of crime- is talk about it and you have posters of it, and you have newspaper article clippings in your desk drawer, I’d be concerned”. So, in the end it seems that, if people’s boundaries and victims’ families are respected, consuming these contents might even be beneficial on some levels.
Author: Francesca Abela
Buddy: Siddharth Chaturvedi
Editor: Maartje Koot
Translator: Judith Scholing
Editor translation: Lucas Geelen