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The myths and misconceptions from TV in this episode of Misconceptions cover shows like CSI (what is "The CSI Effect?") and E.R.

Misconceptions is a weekly show where we debunk common misconceptions from Mental Floss, producer of The List Show. This week, Elliott Morgan discusses some misconceptions from television!

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Hi, I'm Elliott, and this is Mental Floss on YouTube.
Today I'm gonna talk about some misconceptions the television, my favorite thing, taught you.


Misconception number one: It takes a few seconds to scan for finger prints.
On shows like CSI and Law & 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 one hour and 12 minutes to search through 334 million prints.

Misconception number two: Forensic labs are 100% accurate.
This misconception is so common that it's 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 "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 actually 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 number three: 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 it's not always necessary. Like when a person consents to a search or when there's probable cause or something illegal is in plain view or when a suspect is being arrested.

Misconception number four: 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 get caught pretty much right away. Plus ducts are used to transport air from place to place so they can easily bend in a 90 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 wounder if that's on purpose. Probably.

Misconception number five: When a person's heart starts flat-lining, a shock to the heart can save them.
You've seen this on basically like every medical show ever. A patient's heart monitor indicates that it's flat-lining and then a good-looking doctor rushes in and saves the day with a shock to the heart. But a flat-line, also known as asystole can be fixed with CPR or with a vasopressor and adrenaline. This is for very complicated scientific reasons 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 is flat-line on the other hand doesn't have those different electrical charges that those electrolytes need for this to work. A shock to a flat-line heart will just burn it.

Misconception number six: 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, when talking about Scandal he said it's not that exciting, noting that staffers don't have enough time to engage in too much scandalous behavior. 

Misconception number seven: Minimum wage workers can afford beautiful, spacious apartments. 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 two grand a month in rent. The apartments in The Big Bang Theory appear on the some cost, which might be feasible for a group of scientists, but maybe not for Cheesecake Factory employees like Penny.

Misconception number eight: 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 & Order can be real downers. Well, it turns out 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 about 57% of homicides. Interestingly people who watch the shows often also overestimate the percentage of the population who are lawyers and police officers. A 2009 study from Purdue University found these people believed lawyers made up around 16% of the workforce and police officers around 18%, in reality it's less than one percent each.

Misconception number nine: 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 oftentimes eyewitnesses miss-remember events and miss-identify suspects. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association "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 one in three!

Misconception number ten: Emergency room workers are constantly saving people from heart attacks and strokes.
I'm not gonna 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 don't generally 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 by the help of all these nice people. If you have a topic for an upcoming Misconceptions episode that you would like to see, leave it in the comments and we'll go check it out. And I'll see you next week, bye!