8 psychological traits of people who love true-crime documentaries

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There’s a lot you can tell about somebody by the kind of content they most enjoy consuming.

Whether it’s drama and comedy or war films and drama, we all have that type of series or film which we can’t get enough of. 

I want to take a look at a very specific genre today and what it says about personality: true-crime documentaries. The ominous voiceover, the case files, the crime scene footage and interviews.

I’ve seen a few true-crime documentaries I enjoyed, but I’ve never been a fanatic. Yet one of my best friends can spend all day watching them and never gets bored. I was curious about what draws people to this kind of thing and why some get so engrossed by it. 

So let’s take a closer look: 

What kind of person loves true-crime documentaries?

1) Curiosity 

The first key characteristic of those who love true-crime documentaries is intense curiosity

The kind of person who can watch an in-depth documentary on a serial killer or a multi-part documentary about a cold case is extremely curious. 

They want to know more and are deeply drawn to content that has an element of mystery. The unknown fascinates them and they’d love to find out more. 

2) Vicariousness

The next personality trait of people who can’t get enough true-crime is an element of vicariousness. 

They find it interesting to discover more about crime and important cases, but they also experience satisfaction consuming it from the safety of being behind a screen. 

Seeing the interesting facts of a case while not being in actual danger is a unique experience, especially when the facts are laid out in a clear and chronological order by the narrator. 

Curiosity, the desire to learn and vicariousness combine to make for a big true-crime fan. 

3) Wanting to learn 

Many of those who enjoy true crime documentaries also have a deep desire to learn. 

They actually want to see the details of forensic investigations, searching clues, interviewing witnesses and other aspects of crime scenes and criminal investigations. 

They are not only curious about this in a general or intellectual way but also for their own safety. 

This is particularly true of several female friends of mine, who enjoy true crime documentaries in order to see and understand some of the warning signs that men or other people could be dangerous or abusive without them first realizing it. 

In fact I have a close friend who realized her long-term boyfriend was gaslighting her and engaging in many other potentially dangerous narcissistic behaviors as a result of watching true crime documentaries about abusive spouses.

She broke up before his possessive and psychologically and sexually manipulative behavior could spiral into physical harm. 

4) Situational awareness 

Closely related to becoming more knowledgeable about aspects of crime is situational awareness. 

This is the ability to notice details of your environment and respond to them appropriately. 

It’s far from just an abstract or intellectual quality. 

In fact, situational awareness can make the difference between life and death. 

The most basic example might be somebody crossing the street and looking at oncoming traffic rather than just at the walk signal. 

Somebody else with less situational awareness might only look at the walk signal and miss a car that is ignoring the light. 

In terms of crime, situational awareness is also deeply important to understand suspicious signs of crimes that are likely to happen or maybe underway, and to solve crimes that have already happened.

5) Attention to detail 

Those who consume a lot of true crime documentaries certainly have an above average attention to detail. 

They notice a lot of what is going on around them and have high situational awareness as I mentioned. 

This tends to go hand-in-hand with an overall strong attention to detail

They are the kind of person who may notice low-key nervous tics in the witness to a crime, or may observe that someone is not maintaining eye contact while speaking

While other people may walk through an area and think everything is fine, they will notice several cigarette butts in a certain placement that indicate people were there recently and then correlate this with the time of night in order to draw the conclusion that something else about the case timeline is wrong.

These are just a few examples of the small attention to detail on the ability to draw conclusions from the granular level to a bigger picture conclusion.

6) An investigative instinct 

There are a certain breed of people who genuinely enjoy investigation. From a young age they have wanted to know why. 

This is not inherently bad or good, but it certainly yields results. 

It relates to that deep sense of curiosity I mentioned earlier and a desire to always know more. 

The distinction here is that an investigative instinct is specifically related to solving problems or uncovering wrongdoing that is going on or has gone on. 

Those with a strong investigative instinct enjoy watching true crime documentaries because it is a way to observe and compare the investigative abilities and motivations of other experts in law enforcement and related fields. 

When they see how other people approach investigation they feel reaffirmed in their own abilities as well as gaining inspiration for new ways to investigate and look into suspicious or otherwise questionable activities and people.

Such sleuths also enjoy watching true crime documentaries and then comparing the narrative and documentary presentation to the historical record and unvarnished facts of the case. 

Was the documentary accurate? Was it overdramatized or oversimplified? 

7) Anxious tendencies 

Let’s face it:

True crime documentaries are not exactly feel-good viewing. 

Although I mentioned the earlier sense of vicariousness that some may get from consuming them, they generally focus on quite negative and depressing subject matter. 

In many cases true crime documentaries start with a picture perfect marriage, a happy and tranquil neighborhood before it’s shattered by violence, or a friendship that goes disastrously wrong.

Those who are very into true crime documentaries often have an element of anxiety deep within their personality

They are worried that things which seem to be going well could end at any moment or go disastrously wrong. Watching a true crime documentary is almost like watching some of the worst case scenarios on television.

This has a dual effect:

It reassures them that at least it hasn’t yet happened to them, but also increases anxiety about what if it could happen to them or somebody they know…

8) Fascination with the macabre

There is certainly an element of fascination with the macabre for those who are drawn to true-crime documentaries. 

By watching the unfolding of serious criminal cases, there is some very graphic subject matter and imagery that ends up being depicted. 

Viewers who are not disturbed by this or at least find their own disturbance counterbalanced by their fascination with the subject generally have a strong interest for fascination with darker subject matter of this kind.

This doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s certainly true that not everyone wants to see true-crime documentaries. 

At the end of the day, those who like true crime documentaries are curious, detail-oriented and highly aware individuals who aren’t afraid of a bit darker topics. 

If there’s ever a crime they’re exactly who you’d want around to solve it. 

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