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Confess -- You Love True Crime

Ben Smith
Flickr via Creative Commons

The hugely popular Netflix documentary true crime series, Making a Murderer,  just nabbed four Emmy Awards in the nonfiction category.  The much-streamed show tapped into the on-going national fascination with true crime stories, and a local professor's research indicates some interesting reasons for our lust for true crime, especially women's thirst for the stories.

There's Cold Case Files, Serial, The Jinx, True Murder, City Confidential and, of course, Making a Murderer.  True crime permeates our entertainment options.  But can it be more than mere entertainment?  For women, the answer appears to be in the affirmative.  Amanda Vicary is a professor of psychology at Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington.  She's researched our obsession with true crime and found that women, in particular, are drawn to true crime stories.  

Credit Laura Kennedy / WGLT
Amanda Vicary researches our interest in true crime.

"A lot of this crime stuff is very bloody and gory, it can be disturbing and give you nightmares -- everything that goes against a traditionally stereotype of a woman," said Vicary. "My research shows that women especially love true crime, and what they're drawn to is the psychological component. Women want to know why someone commits a violent crime.  Another reason is learning defense tactics.  Women imagine themselves in the situation and wonder how they could escape."

Vicary thinks there could be an evolutionary connection. "This interest in true crime could be something that has evolved to help us perpetuate our own lives," she said. "Knowing what can potentially hurt or kill us helps our chances of surviving."

Vicary also noted that in her research, men aren't as interested in true crime, preferring true stories that are war related or involve gang violence.

Reporter, content producer and former All Things Considered host, Laura Kennedy is a native of the Midwest who occasionally affects an English accent just for the heck of it. Related to two U.S. presidents, Kennedy appalled her family by going into show business.