The Problematic Scientificity of Psychology in the Media: How Mental Illness Coverage Could Lead to Criminality Prejudice


  • Adalberto Fernandes Centre for Philosophy of Science of the University of Lisbon



mental health, communication, psychology, media, crime


We analysed how psychologists in the media approached a recent case of mass murder “attempt” by a university student. Contrary to previous media studies focused on the relationship between crime and mental health, we do not take for granted the scientificity of psychology in order to understand how its trembling epistemic status affects its public discourse. The case was one of the first happening in Europe during the COVID-19 crisis, an event that is known for its impacts on mental health. Using Foucault’s genealogical-archaeological method we found that there was a prominent level of speculation that, dangerously, linked mental illness with criminal behaviour, especially when there was a lack of information about the student and his intentions. The pandemic context constituted a renewed opportunity for experts to talk about ‘collective mental illness’ in alarming terms. Interestingly, the experts presented naïve versions of the “magic bullet theory” to explain the power that media have on subjects with mental illness who engage in criminal behaviour. We also found that specialists proposed hypotheses that cannot be disproven, creating a dogmatic sense of a fearful inescapability from mental illness that can lead to criminal behaviour.


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How to Cite

Fernandes, A. (2022). The Problematic Scientificity of Psychology in the Media: How Mental Illness Coverage Could Lead to Criminality Prejudice. Tripodos, (52), 71-90.