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Misconceptions from Television – mental_floss on YouTube (Ep. 14)

Misconceptions from Television – mental_floss on YouTube (Ep. 14)


Hi I’m Elliott. This is Mental Floss on
YouTube. Today I’m going to talk about some misconceptions that television, my favorite
thing, taught you. Misconception #1: It takes a few seconds to
scan for fingerprints. On show likes CSI and Law and Order, the characters
seem to have these unlimited resources. Instant fingerprint scanning and recognition is one
of those. In reality, they would probably use the FBI’s Integrated Automated Fingerprint
Identification System. It takes around 27 minutes to search through its 70 million criminal
fingerprints. Processing for a civilian’s print takes an average of an hour and twelve
minutes to search through 34 million prints. Misconception #2: Forensic labs are 100% accurate.
This misconception is so common that it has even been given a name: “The CSI effect.”
It has been studied because jurors who watch the show are less likely to be convinced by
evidence unless it involves forensic science. In reality, according to the Washington Post,
between 2002 and 2012, quote, “failures [were] reported at about 30 federal, state
and local crime labs serving the FBI, the Army and eight of the nation’s 20 largest
cities.” A study was conducted at Arizona State University
about the CSI effect in 2007. One forensic scientist that they interviewed estimated
that 40% of the “science” portrayed on CSI does not exist in real life. Shocker!
Yet, viewers of CSI tend to rate themselves higher than other people when asked about
their knowledge of forensic science. Misconception #3: Police officers always need
warrants to search. In many crime shows, an officer is thwarted
when they’re forced to wait for a search warrant. But, in reality, that’s not always
necessary. Like, when a person consents to a search, when there’s probable cause, when
something illegal is in plain view, or when a suspect is being arrested. Misconception #4: Air ducts are easy to crawl
through. Characters have used air ducts to get around
in shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, 24, and even Community, if you count monkeys.
This isn’t a good idea in real life, for a few reasons. First of all, many shows have
characters escaping from being locked up through a duct, which wouldn’t work well because
it actually makes a lot of noise. You’d get caught pretty much right away. Plus, ducts
are used to transport air from place to place, so it could easily bend in a ninety degree
angle that you wouldn’t be able to crawl up or down. Finally, many people have gotten
stuck in air ducts. They’re generally built a little too small to transport people. I
wonder if that’s on purpose – probably. Misconception #5: When a person’s heart
starts flatlining, a shock to the heart can save them.
You’ve seen this in basically like, every medical show ever — a patient’s heart monitor
indicates that it’s flatlining and a good-looking doctor saves the day with a shock to the heart.
But, a flatline, also known as asystole, can be fixed with CPR or with a vasopressor and
adrenaline. This is for very complicated, scientific reasons that I don’t really have
time to get into, so I’ll just quickly talk about when the shocks do and don’t work. Basically when someone is in cardiac arrest,
a shock to the heart can cause electrolytes out of cells within the heart. Due to the
different electrical charges of those electrolytes, the heart might start pumping again. A person
who has flatlined, on the other hand, doesn’t have those different electrical charges that
those electrolytes need for this to work. A shock to a flatlined heart will just burn
it. Misconception #6: Affairs, lies, and murder
are rampant in The White House. Some shows portray a career in politics as
the most dangerous thing you could possibly pursue. It’s actually not that way in real
life. At least according to Barack Obama, that is. While talking about Scandal, he has
said, “It’s not that exciting,” noting that staffers “don’t have enough time
to engage in too much scandalous behavior.” Misconception #7: Minimum wage workers can
afford beautiful, spacious apartments. BankRate.com recently consulted a few real
estate brokers to see just how much television apartments would cost in real life. In 2 Broke
Girls, Max and Caroline live in a fairly small apartment in Williamsburg. In reality, it
would probably cost around $2,000 a month in rent. The apartments in The Big Bang Theory
would be around the same cost, which might be feasible for a group of scientists, but
maybe not a Cheesecake Factory employee like Penny. Misconception #8: Crimes are solved most of
the time…by the tons of people who work in that field.
Let’s be honest, shows like CSI and Law and Order can be real downers. Well, it turns
out that these shows have a kind of optimism as well. Because Detective Olivia Benson and
her various television peers are very, very good at their jobs. They solve pretty much
100% of the cases that they see. In reality, the NYPD solves around 57% of homicides. Interestingly, people who watch these shows
often also overestimate the percentage of the population who are lawyers and police
officers. A 2009 study from Purdue University found that these people believed lawyers made up around 16% of the work force, and police officers were around 18%. In reality, it’s
less than 1% each. Misconception #9: Eyewitnesses are always accurate. Courtroom dramas rarely tackle the subject
of inaccurate eyewitnesses. Generally, what they say is what the viewer also saw happen.
But, often times, eyewitnesses misremember events and misidentify suspects. In fact,
according to the American Psychological Association, quote, “Controlled experiments as well as
studies of actual identifications have consistently found that the rate of incorrect identifications
is approximately 33 percent.” Guys, that’s 1 in 3. Misconception #10: Emergency Room workers
are constantly saving people from heart attacks and strokes.
I’m not going to tell you when to go to the Emergency Room and when not to go. But
shows like ER and Grey’s Anatomy really confuse their viewers about what the ER is
all about. Chest pain and abdominal pain are the two most common symptoms for people visiting
emergency rooms. But, unlike on TV, these visits generally don’t end in a doctor saving
a life. People visiting the ER who are actually experiencing heart attacks, strokes, or appendicitis
are in the minority. Thank you for watching Misconceptions on Mental
Floss on YouTube, which is made with the help of all these nice people. If you have a topic
for an upcoming Misconceptions episode that you’d like to see, leave it in comments
and we’ll check it out. I’ll see you next week. Bye!

55 comments on “Misconceptions from Television – mental_floss on YouTube (Ep. 14)

  1. As someone who worked at The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (and yes, crime shows, that is the full title, not the Center for Missing Kids or whatever you've renamed them this week) AMBER Alerts are, on average, also used completely incorrectly. You're supposed to have a car description/license plate at the very least, and ideally, have an abductor description. Yes, departments can fudge it a little (infant abductions from hospitals come to mind) but AMBER Alerts were specifically designed to relay those two pieces of information. The number of parents (and cops, to be honest) that I had to explain that to was just phenomenal (and heartbreaking.)

  2. NYPD solves 57% of cases if you take "Get a conviction" as "solve". So we'll go ahead and consume they're always right.

  3. That CSI stat about errors was almost entirely uninformative and doesn't give your argument any strength. Errors happened in this many labs? So what. How often? Hypothetically, if errors didn't happen 99.9% of the time, you'd expect errors to happen in places sometimes. Doesn't make forensic science weak.

  4. I thought this would get a little more in-depth, so I have a suggestion:

    THE WAY HIGH SCHOOLS, HIGH SCHOOLERS (their wardrobes, makeup, and ages) ARE PORTRAYED. In glee, they had a 28/9 year old playing a high-schooler.

  5. Hi, Elliott! Sorry if you've covered this one elsewhere, but it would have fit in well with the other crime tv show stuff: Please help spread the word that there is NO WAITING PERIOD to report a person missing! (At least not in California.) If anyone makes you wait to report someone (even an habitual runaway!), he or she is breaking the law. I think  retired officers who become tv show advisers conspire to keep this myth going, to help their friends in law enforcement avoid having to take tedius (and, in fairness, often pointless) missing person reports.

  6. On the fingerprint example I think you may have missed some technology – see this article please www.thedenverchannel.com/news/local-news/smartphone-size-gadget-lets-weld-county-deputies-id-suspects-in-seconds-instead-of-hours

  7. if you want to see examples of inaccurate witnesses play some phoenix wright, some of those witnesses will make you want to pull your hair out

  8. Who the hell thinks there are that many lawyers and cops out there!?

    Also, yeah, CSI and such shows can be pretty misleading.

  9. People will believe everything they watch, including those stupid war/military shows. Women deploy, but they don't do deployments like men do!

  10. Misconceptions about medicine:
    – Defibrillators don't restart the heart. they stop the heart completely so the brain can restart it .
    Sure you could find many others!

  11. Aha! He said nothing about super observant people who are hired as psychics always cracking the case being a misconception!

  12. I 💙 Elliott! Does Mental Floss sell tshirts? PJ's? Calendars? All proceeds could go to the Pork Chop fund…

  13. Another misconception having a family means isn't with it & a family is purgatory for the living, man do I hate married with children no, cartoonish lay negative stereotypes of the American family are int fun and really insulting To parents

  14. yeah, but in 2 broke girls they live in that apartment sort of illegally, and it's in disrepair (at least so the viewers are led to believe)

  15. Plus there is a lot of crap in air ducts. Flow rate monitors and VAV boxes are all over the place so you couldn't get through anyway.

  16. Being that I write murder mysteries I found this pretty informative.  I didn't realize the homicide solving rate was as low as 57%

  17. From all the misconceptions from CSI, the fingerprint search is the most accurate. Sure, you will not waste 30 minutes of prime time television searching for a fingerprint, but they never say the search is instantaneous. If you narrow the search terms to a city, or known associates of the victim, the results COULD be that fast. In most shows you see fingerprint search in the background while technicians are doing something else. Of course they don't work 10 minutes a day and cannot go from New Jersey to the Bronx in no time. It is television, you know?

  18. My one experience with an emergency room, the one person there I found out the reason why she was in had been in a glassing incident (hit with a glass bottle). I was in because I had a surgical wound that hadn't healed and got infected. I spent another week in hospital as a result.

  19. My one experience with an emergency room, the one person there I found out the reason why she was in had been in a glassing incident (hit with a glass bottle). I was in because I had a surgical wound that hadn't healed and got infected. I spent another week in hospital as a result.

  20. @MentalFloss Elliot, you really should check out Murdoch Mysteries Season 2 episode 4. Where someone DID get stuck while trying to prove (or not prove something).

  21. so the president tells you scandals aren't happening and you don't infer conflict of interest? and Penney from big bang theory could sugar daddy that apartment and have three and a half weeks left in the month to suck her way into clothes and a car payment.

  22. In an ER or as in the UK the Accident and Emergency Department. It's usually Road Traffic Accidents, Drunk people who have injured their self. People who have overdosed on prescription or illegal drugs. Sport injuries, heart attack/stroke victims. Totally unlike hospital tv shows.

  23. Common misconception that tv/movies show all the time… semi trucks honk ALL the time.
    What are they honking at? Why did the sound crew add in the honk? That, and many other canned sound effects drive me crazy. The metal door. The car door. The child laugh. Not the wilhelm scream though, that's still funny.

  24. Or how about the misconception that anyone who ever hurts/kills an animal is likely to become a serial killer. I love Criminal Minds, but so many people think they know a ton about psychology and criminal behavior because of that show.

  25. Um….actually a shock to the heart (which the machine is called a defibrillator by the way) stops the heart from beating. It is used when a patient's heart beat is too fast. So a defibrillator slows down the heart rate. It's exactly the same as turning your PC off and then on again to fix it.

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