How does the role of forensic psychologists on television vary from what they perform in real life?
Fiction unlike real life has to absorb the observer from the very beginning and maintain interest. Real life can be exciting but most of the time is habitual, can be dull and most of the time lies on a spectrum between the two. Once this is understood it is fairly simple to see how producers will shorten discoveries to facilitate sustained interest.
CSI is a good example from a forensics point of view where lab results are returned almost instantly. And the truth is always discovered.
In television shows featuring forensic psychologists, very rarely will you see the protagonist engaged in monotonous paperwork. The way the protagonist deliberates is often shown in shortened sequences so that they seem perspicuous and sage-like even in doubt.
After the protagonist wrestles with some fact of the case in hand, they will almost inevitably always arrive at the truth - which can often seem as if they have used deductive logic rather than inferential logic to get to their conclusion - this is a subtle point but an important one.
In conclusion, these shows are not 'bad' and they can give us some idea and process of forensic psychology as well as entertain us, but they are not a go to for the beginner wanting to learn more.
I thought from watching TV that forensic psychologists go to crime scenes a lot but I was told recently that is not true.
I believe @Daniel Sumner hit on one of the biggest differences. TV will always cut out the boring and tedious parts. Waiting for two hours in court to testify can be boring. Spending 8 hours writing a report can be boring. Reviewing records for 10 hours can be boring. Obviously no television show is going to show hour long scenes of psychologists reviewing records and taking notes, but that is often part of the job.
The same can be said for police shows. We don't have to watch them write up a 3 page incident report or see them spend 45 minutes going over a surveillance video. Hospital dramas don't drag us through medical record documentation, endless meetings, online trainings for health privacy law information, etc. At the end of the day, all jobs will have boring aspects but television will remove this to make the shows more entertaining and attract viewers.
Television shows potray forensic psychologists as super humans like they have mind reading powers and crack the criminal mind in just 30 minutes. But in reality they are far from truth. Profiling criminals is paintasking.
But on the other hand, Shows like Mindhunter really changed the overall perception about forensic psychology. It is no more boring field of psychology.