Title of Abstract

Morbid Curiosity and Gender Predict Interest In True Crime​

Poster Number

11

Faculty Sponsor (for work done with a non-Winthrop mentor)

Merry Sleigh, Ph.D.

College

College of Arts and Sciences

Department

Psychology

Abstract

We investigated whether the personality trait of morbid curiosity might be a factor in how people perceive and respond to true crime presentations. Participants were 105 adults with a mean age of 25.28 (SD=12.48). The majority were women (75%) and Caucasian (52%). Participants responded to the Brief Trauma Questionnaire, the Morbid Curiosity Scale, and provided details about their true crime viewing habits. Participants were then randomly assigned to one of three conditions which summarized the Menendez brothers’ murder of their parents. One condition was an informational video, one was an entertaining video, and one was a written account. Participants were entertained by all versions of the crime story, and the more entertaining they found the story, the more factual they perceived it to be. This outcome may reflect a society where news and opinion are frequently presented as identical, and thus, the dissemination of misinformation is normalized. Across conditions, gender and morbid curiosity emerged as influential predictors of perceptions. Morbidly curious adults enjoyed the crime presentation and were less afraid, suggesting that they may have approached the story as fulfilling their curiosity rather than focusing on the murder itself. Age, gender, and race did not predict levels of morbid curiosity; however, adults who had experienced more trauma had more morbid curiosity. Adults with trauma experience were a unique group, as they were no more interested in the crime presentations than others despite their greater morbid curiosity. Women saw the crime presentations as informational and fear-inducing, perhaps reflecting their greater likelihood of being victims of personalized, violent crime. These data support identify morbid curiosity as another potential explanation for the public’s increased fascination with true crime.

Start Date

15-4-2022 12:00 PM

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Apr 15th, 12:00 PM

Morbid Curiosity and Gender Predict Interest In True Crime​

We investigated whether the personality trait of morbid curiosity might be a factor in how people perceive and respond to true crime presentations. Participants were 105 adults with a mean age of 25.28 (SD=12.48). The majority were women (75%) and Caucasian (52%). Participants responded to the Brief Trauma Questionnaire, the Morbid Curiosity Scale, and provided details about their true crime viewing habits. Participants were then randomly assigned to one of three conditions which summarized the Menendez brothers’ murder of their parents. One condition was an informational video, one was an entertaining video, and one was a written account. Participants were entertained by all versions of the crime story, and the more entertaining they found the story, the more factual they perceived it to be. This outcome may reflect a society where news and opinion are frequently presented as identical, and thus, the dissemination of misinformation is normalized. Across conditions, gender and morbid curiosity emerged as influential predictors of perceptions. Morbidly curious adults enjoyed the crime presentation and were less afraid, suggesting that they may have approached the story as fulfilling their curiosity rather than focusing on the murder itself. Age, gender, and race did not predict levels of morbid curiosity; however, adults who had experienced more trauma had more morbid curiosity. Adults with trauma experience were a unique group, as they were no more interested in the crime presentations than others despite their greater morbid curiosity. Women saw the crime presentations as informational and fear-inducing, perhaps reflecting their greater likelihood of being victims of personalized, violent crime. These data support identify morbid curiosity as another potential explanation for the public’s increased fascination with true crime.