A study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science found that women are more likely than men to choose true crime media because of the educational aspect, the psychological aspect and because the victims are often female.
The study gave a group of men and women the choice between two books, one that featured details on how the female victim escaped and the other did not. The results showed that women were more likely to choose the book with details on how the victim escaped than the men.
“Essentially, women, more so than men, would have something to gain from reading these books, especially when the story features female victims,” the study said. “Our findings that women were drawn to stories that contained fitness-relevant information make sense in light of research that shows that women fear becoming the victim of a crime more so than do men.”
Data compiled by Spotify showed that female listeners of the true crime podcast genre grew 16% in 2019.
BYU communications professor Kevin John said that part of the reason women might be more drawn to true crime than men is that women experience a different level of fear in their daily life than men do.
“I definitely think that part of the reason women are drawn to true crime is that there is a level of relatability for women to the victims in these stories and we often project ourselves onto the media we consume,” John said.
Utah Valley University student and true crime fan Sophie Perrett enjoys listening to true crime podcasts 4-5 times per week.
“Everyone always thinks that those things won’t happen to them so it’s interesting to hear stories of when it actually happens,” Perrett said.
Perrett said listening to true crime is both terrifying and educational.
“I’ve definitely picked up a few habits like locking my doors right when I get in the car and checking for tags on my things when I’m out by myself,” Perrett said.
BYU psychology professor, Dr. Brock Kirwan, said that people may be drawn to true crime podcasts because it is a way of putting themselves in danger without actually being in danger.
“When listening to true crime podcasts, you’re putting yourself in a situation where you can trick your brain into thinking this is dangerous, even though you’re in a relatively safe environment where you’re not in any danger and some people enjoy the response you get from that,” Kirwan said.
Kirwan also said that the curiosity about what other people are capable of is another reason people are drawn to true crime.
“I think the shock value of what horrible people are capable of is what keeps me coming back to true crime,” BYU student Breanna Wirth said. “People like to know about the intriguing and dramatic aspects of life.”
John explained that the baseline amount of violence in our media is already at a high level so in order to take it further, one must link the violence to reality.
“I think the popularity of true crime shows is symptomatic of the increasing violence in our media and a desire for us to get that same high that violence gives us, whether you like it or not,” John said. “You can be a person that doesn’t like violence but watching something violent will still give you a heightened emotional arousal which can be addicting.”
John explained that individuals go to certain media because of the way it makes them feel and violent media, such as true crime, can elicit an emotional response that is a change of pace in our everyday life.
“I don’t think people who are really drawn to true crime should be concerned,” Kirwan said. “Mysteries and crime stories have been around for years and are something we are drawn to as humans.”