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Unformatted text preview: Captured by True Crime: Why Are Women Drawn to Tales of Rape, Murder, and Serial Killers? Amanda M. Vicary 1 and R. Chris Fraley 1 Abstract The true crime genre, which consists of nonfiction books based on gruesome topics such as rape and murder, has amassed an extensive audience. Many people might assume that men, being the more aggressive sex, would be most likely to find such gory topics interesting. But a perusal of published reader reviews suggests that women enjoy these kinds of books more so than do men. The purpose of this research was to shed light on this apparent paradox. In Studies 1 and 2, the authors conducted a study of reader reviews and a study of book choices that demonstrated that, in fact, women are more drawn to true crime stories whereas men are more attracted to other violent genres. In Studies 3 to 5, the authors manipulated various characteristics of true crime stories to determine which features women find appealing. The authors discuss the findings in light of contemporary evolutionary perspectives on aggression and murder. Keywords aggression, crime, evolutionary psychology, homicide, sex differences In 1959 in a small town in Kansas, the bodies of four family members were found in their home. The fathers throat had been slit and the mother and two children had been shot through the head. The killers were on the run for weeks until they were finally arrested, tried, and, ultimately, hung for their crimes. Despite the horrific details of the case, Truman Capotes book based on this crime, In Cold Blood , became a best seller. Indeed, since the publication of In Cold Blood in 1966, nonfiction books based on real crimes, including murder, robbery, and rape, have become extraordinarily popular. Although it might seem that these gruesome topics would have little appeal, the true crime genre has amassed an extensive audience. In fact, these books often occupy coveted spots on the New York Times Best Sellers List (Paperback Best Sellers, 2004). Who finds these books appealing? It might be reasonable to assume that men would be more likely than women to find such gory topics interesting. After all, a great deal of research has demonstrated that men are more violent and aggressive than women (Eagly &amp; Steffen, 1986; Maccoby &amp; Jacklin, 1974; Wilson &amp; Daly, 1985). In addition, men commit the vast major- ity of violent crimes, accounting for 79 % of aggravated assaults and 90 % of murders in 2007 (Federal Bureau of Investigation [FBI], 2007). Moreover, many true crime stories include details that women would presumably find distasteful. For instance, these books often include horrific accounts of women being kidnapped, raped, tortured, and killed. Research by Haidt, McCauley, and Rozin (1994) demonstrated that women are more disgusted than men by thoughts of gory experiences, such as touching a dead body. As such, it seems reasonable to pre- sume that these types of stories would be not only unattractive...
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- Spring '10
- In Cold Blood