Pop Culture dictionary

CSI effect

[ see-es-ahy ih-fekt ]

What is the CSI effect?

The CSI effect is a name for an alleged phenomenon that involves jurors having inflated expectations about the use of forensic science technology in criminal trials due to their experience with often exaggerated media depictions of it, particularly those on TV crime dramas (such as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and similar shows).

The CSI effect is said to result in jurors placing a higher demand and emphasis on forensic evidence in criminal cases, believing forensic evidence to be infallible, and being less willing to convict when forensic evidence is not presented.

However, despite a reportedly widespread belief in the CSI effect among many law enforcement and legal professionals, studies have suggested that depictions of forensic science on crime dramas like CSI have not significantly impacted jury decisions.

Related words

Mandela Effect, Streisand effect, the Rashomon effect, Dunning Kruger effect

Where does CSI effect come from?

Crime scene tape, blue filter.

The CSI effect is named for the popular fictional TV series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (which spawned several popular spinoffs). These shows and many others like them are based around crimes being solved through the use of forensic science, including advanced (and sometimes fictional) technology.

The word effect is often used in the names of psychological phenomena, such as the placebo effect and the Mandela effect.

The term CSI effect seems to have emerged soon after CSI debuted in 2000 and became popular in the early 2000s. In 2002, a TIME magazine article about forensic science claimed that use of the term CSI effect was becoming common among law enforcement officials to refer to the growing public awareness of forensic science and the resulting expectations around its use in criminal investigations. In 2004, USA Today reported that the term CSI effect was being widely used by prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges to refer to the impact that crime dramas featuring forensic science were allegedly having on jurors.

In more recent years, some studies have suggested that the changes in juror expectations associated with the CSI effect have been exaggerated.

Examples of CSI effect

Juries love DNA experts. It's the CSI effect.
@sunny, July 3, 2013
But legal experts are concerned that juries may well be confusing fact with fiction. It's termed the CSI Effect. Prosecutors have been complaining that shows like CSI are creating the expectation that every trial must feature high-tech forensic tests.
Arun Rath, NPR, February 2011

Who uses CSI effect?

The term CSI effect is most often used by law enforcement and legal professionals to claim that pop culture depictions of forensic science have influenced jurors’ expectations and judgment during criminal trials.

Just Added

🥰 Smiling Face With Hearts emoji, 🫠 Melting Face emoji, Black Music Appreciation Month, Older Americans Month, Mental Health Awareness Month


This is not meant to be a formal definition of CSI effect like most terms we define on, but is rather an informal word summary that hopefully touches upon the key aspects of the meaning and usage of CSI effect that will help our users expand their word mastery.