The 12 angry men are a group of jurors that have come together for longer than a few minutes and interact with and influence one another, and perceive one another as “us” and are interdependent with each other. They work towards a common goal of coming to a unanimous consensus about whether the accused at hand is guilty or not.
A sense of “we” feeling is ignited in the group once they realize that the fate of an eighteen year old boy who is accused of stabbing his own father to death is in their hands. Their common interest is to have all 12 of them to be on the same page and present the judge a collective decision. This they have to achieve despite of their individual differences as demanded by their profession. The entire group takes up the task together as a unit and do end up with a unanimous decision as seen in the latter part of the movie. They all may have different backgrounds but are bound together by their profession and task at hand. They are highly depended on one another. To this particular group, the law and ensuring that justice is served is their utmost priority. As evident, the group had major control over its members and everyone of them were obliged to both listen and actively participate in the discussion in a democratic manner. They expected the group to stand up for them or at least listen to what they had to say no matter how trivial.
This group of jurors was a formally appointed one. They were bound by rules and regulations. They had a complex structure. Even though it may seem like just a bunch of 12 members but in reality they were a significant part of a bigger, more complex structure. Their decision mattered most to the judiciary system. Like any other formal group, it had speicifc time bound objectives to fulfill. Being a task oriented group, it can be categorized as a secondary group. As seen in the movie, there were a few jurors who didn’t even want to be a part of it in the first place. Their effectiveness was high when their were no personal needs to be met. However, as seen in the case of juror no. 3, his personal needs kept him from seeing the possibility of reasonable doubt until the very end. Such a vital group was limited to certain people alone. It is an exclusive group, to be a member of which, one had to meet basic qualifications. It was not open to all, it was limited to an inner circle.
Throughout the movie we see how the group completes the five stages of formation.
Starting with forming, initially, there were some members who even questioned the need of such a group because according to them, the outcome was already crystal clear. There was a lot of uncertainty and confusion. The members didn’t know what to expect out of the other.
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As they reached the second stage, storming, we found a plethora of opinions. It was sparked when they found out that one person out of the twelve had an opposite view point. The members disagreed on many points which led to conflicts. It was Juror No.8 (Henry Fonda) who voiced out his concerns in the first place. It took him time, but eventually he, along with the help of a few others, managed to convince all 12 of them to see things from a different light and changed the entire verdict. It was only after hours of brainstorming and discussions that they arrived at a common consensus and established their clear goal.
In this group, the third stage, norming, was reached almost in parallel with stage two. The members started to accept that there are differences in opinions and that they will have to work through it. In an unsaid manner, roles and responsibilities were appointed. For instance, Juror No.1 became the foreman and it almost became Juror No.8’s responsibility to convince the rest as to why the child was not guilty. They even established a pattern to get the work done. After sessions of discussion, they would conduct a vote to see where everyone stands, they even used various methods to do the same.
Stage 4 was seen throughout the movie. In order to achieve their goals the carried out rounds and rounds of discussions where they spoke about a range of things like the murder weapon, the el trains, the verdicts offered etc. They were expected to be rational and unbiased, however there were some exceptions.
In the end, when everyone was convinced about the possibility of reasonable doubt, stage 5, adjourning, was seen. They came up with a unanimous conclusion that the boy was not guilty, their purpose as the jury had reached.
The formation of this group can be best explained using the Classic theory of group formation. As the theory suggests, the entire foundation of the group was built up by multiple interactions. Their shared activities of discussions, role play and voting played a major role in the formation of this group. They developed similar attitudes inspite of having completely opposite ones initially. Their shared activities developed similar sentiments and attitudes which made them stronger.
The group was subjected to various types of collective influences, for example social facilitation. Social facilitation is the tendency to perform better at tasks we are already good at in the presence of others around as it increases arousal. Juror No.8 ( Henry Fonda) was an architect by profession. He was a confident and passionate man. In the presence of eleven other who held views opposing his own, he continued to be confident and passionate. In fact, he held them so strongly that he was able to convince 11 angry men. In his everyday life, as an architect, creativity had to be one of his main strengths. In the presence of others, he played to his strengths and helped create a mini role play to determine the credibility of the old man’s verdict.
On the downside, there may be instances where crowding can affect social facilitation. In relevance to this, the seating arrangement also plays a major role. For instance Juror No.2 found himself succumbing to stress when we felt the eyes of 11 angry jurors at him seated across and beside him on either sides.
Such arousal in the presence of others can be caused by three factors and it is very evident in the movie
Evaluation apprehension – concern for how others are evaluating us
Distraction – sometimes, the presence of co-actors may also be a distraction, in the movie, the presence of the members with different levels of patience and tolerance is a definite source of distraction, along with the changing weather.
Mere presence – presence of other people increases arousal which may lead to increase or decrease in performance
Social loafing is another type of collective influence that the group was subjected to. It is the tendency for people to exert less effort when they pool their efforts towards a common goal than when they are individually accountable. The 12 men in the movie together had to achieve a common goal. However, all 12 of them didn’t initially contribute to their fullest capacities. Only few of them realized what a grave responsibility they had on their shoulder while some felt they had more important things to do then to sit in the jury. Juror No.7 found attending a game more important. There were even instances when some members were found playing tic-tac-toe while a serious discussion was going on the other side of the table. This led to the emergence of free riders who put in lesser effort and still wanted to be benefited with the same rewards.
The entire jury consisted of only men, which also explains why social loafing was seen on such a large scale. Social loafing was reduced when each individual was given more accountability and were asked to explain their stance in front of the entire group.
Deindividuation is another type of collective influence according to which when there is arousal and a diffuse of responsibility, and both of it combines, the normal diminutions go diminished. Loss of self awareness and evaluation apprehension occurs in group situations that foster responsiveness to group norms, be it good or bad. This is influenced by physical anonymity. When one is anonymous, his/her inhibitions are reduced. In the movie, we saw how when the vote was taken via a secret ballot, Juror No.9 was able to actually express his personal opinion which was that the boy was not guilty. The anonymity ensured by the secret ballot allowed him to release his inhibitions as opposed to when the voting was not secretive. Group size also influences deindividuation. Larger the group, self awareness is less and hence we tend engage in more in that behavior.
There are also various social influences on any interacting group, namely: Group polarization, group think and minority influence.
Group polarization is group produced enhancement of a member’s preexisting tendencies. One’s opinion is strengthened when the group also holds the same or similar opinion. This can be explained using the example of Juror No. 3 and 4.
Initially there wasn’t a problem for them as there were 9 other who held the same opinion as them. Such a large number even helped strengthen their opinions. Towards the end, when they were the only two people who still believed that the boy was guilty, when Juror No.4 put forth two well substantiated points, Juror No. 3’s belief strengthened and he became more reassured of his stance. Such behavior can be explained using normative influence and informative influence. Normative influence stems from the desire to avoid rejection and to gain approval. Informative influence stems from the desire to acquire more information to strengthen your own opinion.
Since this group is not a cohesive in-group, tendency of group think to occur is very less as evident from the movie.
Minority influence is a type of social influence that is most prominent one in this movie. It is true that the influence a minority has over a group, if its confident and validated, is much more than that of a majority. In this movie, we see how Juror No.8 single handedly sparks the engine towards convincing a group of 11 men into believing something they initially thought could never happen. With his confidence, creativity and patience, slowly, he was able to make the other members let go of their inhibitions and make a new fair decision.
Another type of Minority Influence is Leadership. Leadership is the process through which certain group members motivate and guide the group. There are two types of leaderships : Task leadership and Social leadership, both can be seen in this movie.
Task leadership, as the name suggests, is oriented towards a particular task. They give instructions, set roles and get work done. It is the form that organizes work, sets standards and focuses on goal. Juror No.1 took up the role of a task leader. He was directive and guided the group throughout.
Social leaders build team work, mediate conflicts and offers supports. Social leadership is more democratic and adjustable. It aims at finding a consensus and is much more useful for decision making. Such leadership is portrayed by Juror No.8. He ensures that a unanimous decision is made in a smooth and orderly manner. He allows everyone to get a chance and also ensures that all the members are active and participating.
Thus the 12 angry men are a perfect example of how a group works and its dynamics.