<img src="https://d5nxst8fruw4z.cloudfront.net/atrk.gif?account=iA1Pi1a8Dy00ym" style="display:none" height="1" width="1" alt="" />
Skip Navigation


Larger or smaller version of a figure that preserves its shape.

Atoms Practice
Estimated5 minsto complete
Practice Dilation
This indicates how strong in your memory this concept is
Estimated5 minsto complete
Practice Now
Turn In
The CSI Effect

Credit: Tex Texin
Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/textexin/3612094774/
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

If you've watched a crime show on television, you’ve seen how dilation supposedly works in the real world. Investigators use computers to dilate photographs, and the larger pictures yield information about license plates, addresses, or criminals. Some experts don't like these shows. They say television makes the process look too easy. They’re worried that the popularity of crime shows may actually damage jury trials.

A Drama, Not a Documentary

Crime shows like CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and its spin-offs dramatize the crime lab process. For instance, technicians on CSI regularly use dilation to enlarge photos and videos. In real life, however, dilation is not so easy. Most of the time, when you enlarge a blurry photo, you still can’t make out key details like license plate numbers or signs in the background. It's rare that a reflection in someone’s glasses would give useful information. Even worse, on CSI, lab tests like DNA analysis only take about 15 minutes. In the real world, it can take months to get DNA test results.

Credit: University of Michigan School of Natural Resources & Environment
Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/snre/6800805602/
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

The problem is that while these shows are entertaining, some Americans mistake them for reality. This can cause major problems in real-life courtrooms. Juries unrealistically expect every case to include DNA evidence. They think prosecutors should use technology that doesn't exist in the real world. Legal experts call this the "CSI effect." It means that lawyers and judges need to educate juries about what technology can and can’t do for a criminal investigation.

See for yourself: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LB6xDDgj1xY

Explore More

Even when crime labs perform many tests on evidence collected at the scene of a crime, forensic scientists can still make mistakes. Read on for examples of times when DNA evidence turned out to be false.





Notes/Highlights Having trouble? Report an issue.

Color Highlighted Text Notes
Please to create your own Highlights / Notes
Show More

Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: Tex Texin; Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/textexin/3612094774/; License: CC BY-NC 3.0
  2. [2]^ Credit: University of Michigan School of Natural Resources & Environment; Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/snre/6800805602/; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

Explore More

Sign in to explore more, including practice questions and solutions for Dilation.
Please wait...
Please wait...