12 Angry Men is a tense and compelling film that involves a murder case. A young boy is on trial for the murder of his father. The court leaves the decision of boy’s life in the hands of twelve jurors who have carefully listened to both sides of the case. These jurors sat in a room and argued for hours over the guilt or innocence of the boy. Initially elven jurors voted guilty but as movie proceeds, jurors are swayed to a not-guilty decision. The movie highlights many social psychology theories in areas of social perception, conformation bias in human behavior, attribution bias, impression formation, group process and categorization.
Conformity and Social Influence:
Social conformity is a type of social influence that results in change of belief/behavior in order to fit in a group. Conformity due to social influence can easily be seen in the first scene of the movie when jurors decided to vote for the final decision by raising hands, several jurors who weren’t sure during that time raised hands as the majority of the people voted for guilty but later when vote was taken in sealed papers, some of them changed their decision. This strongly suggests that there was a strong group pressure to conform the majority.
Social Influence can be of two types: Informational Social Influence and Normative Social Influence. Informational Social Influence is a psychological phenomenon which occurs when people confirm to the group/peer views in order to reach to the correct answer for themselves whereas, Normative Social Influences leads an individual to conform to the group in order to be liked by the group. The movie highlights these theories:
7th Juror (Baseball fan): He had no reasons to change his vote to”Not Guilty”. He was himself not convinced that the boy was not guilty, he just went with the crowd which reflects normative influence.
8th Juror(Accountant): He changed his vote due to informational influence. He was convinced that the female eye witness had poor eyesight and therefore her testimony could be wrong.
Surroundings and situation can influence an individual’s decision making. Time constraint played an important role in affecting jury’s decision as most of the jurors had some pre-appointment for their work and due to that hurry, their decisions changed in the final scenes of the movie. Also, from the beginning of the movie, the room was heated up and the fan wasn’t working but as the movie proceeds, it started raining and the fan finally worked at last. In that calm environment, the decision making became efficient and everyone started to re-think about the facts and evidences presented in the court.
The accused boy was shown at the beginning of the movie. As soon as his face was shown, most of the viewers immediately formed an impression that the boy was not guilty. It was his facial expressions and his body posture that persuaded viewers to feel sympathetic towards him. While, many of the jurors had an impression that because the boy belonged to the slums, it was in his traits to murder and being wild. As one the juror said that “We know these kids”, he was referring to the impressions that are normally formed for the kids from poor background.
Schemas and Stereotypes:
Schemas are an effective tool that help us predict certain behaviors, but they can lead to stereotyping. Twelve Angry Men revolves around these ideas, as the decision of many of the jurors was influenced by the fact that because the boy belonged to the slums of that he was capable of murdering even his own father. Just as stereotypes lead to a biased way of interpreting the evidence, they can also lead to confirmation bias, which is the tendency to only seek information that confirms your expectations and ignore disconfirming information. Many of the jurors believed the witnesses because they were confirming that the boy was guilty. They ignored the small details like the old man was walking with a limp, the female eye witness had marked on her nose that were caused by her eye glasses and the knife used in murder was not unusual. They also ignored the fact that how did that old man heard boy saying “I’m gonna kill ya” when that noisy el Train was passing. All of these details were overlooked and ignored because they were disconfirming the juror’s expectations, this clearly shows that Confirmation Bias played an important role in influencing jury’s decision.
Persuasion is a form of social influence in which an audience is intentionally encouraged to change their attitude, idea towards some event, object and person by using spoken words or visual tools to convey information and reasoning. In the movie, jurors were using persuasion tactics on each other by providing facts in against of the boy. One of the jurors, Davis (the one in favor of the accused boy) reexamined facts, evidences and witnesses and tried to persuade other jurors to believe him. He presented the same knife that was used in the murder which was earlier claimed to be of the unusual kind. Later, he pointed out minor details that were initially overlooked by other jurors, like old man’s leg and the female witness’s eye glasses marks. He finally succeeded in persuading others.