Analysis of Conformity and Group Influence in Twelve Angry Men Introduction The film “Twelve Angry Men” directed by Sidney Lumet illustrates many social psychological principles. The tense, gripping storyline that takes place in the 1950s features a group of jurors who must decide unanimously whether a young man is guilty or innocent in the murder of his father. At the beginning, eleven of the twelve jurors voted guilty. Gradually, through some heated discussion, the jurors are swayed to a not-guilty verdict.
Upon examination, the film highlights social psychology theories in areas of conformity and group influence. Theories and Application Conformity Conformity, a change in one’s behaviour or belief to correspond with others (Myers, Spencer, & Jordan, 2009), is without a doubt dangerous in the context of this film. “Twelve Angry Men” exhibits two types of social influences that are the grounds of the jurors’ need to base their decisions on the decisions of fellow jurors in the room: informational social influence and normative social influence.
According to informational social influence, one conforms because they believe other’s views or understanding of an uncertain situation is more superior or compelling than their own. Normative social influence states that individuals conform because they have a desire to gain approval and avoid rejection from others. A classic example of conformity reveals itself right from the beginning of the film after the accused’ trial adjourns. The twelve jurors gather in a small, stuffy room and take a preliminary vote by a show of hands.
Introduction I still remember my first day of American Government class freshman year. The teacher asked us, “What are the three branches of government?” I wanted to raise my hand and say “Judicial, congressional, and executive.” But no one else raised their hands. I thought to myself, “No one else knows it, maybe I don’t know it. I don’t want to stand out on my first day. Better just keep my hand ...
Normative social influence is characterized by several of the jurors who seemed unsure of their vote but eventually give in to the pressure of the group and vote guilty. Because this vote is taken openly, these individuals perhaps feel inclined to cast their vote with the majority in an effort to avoid appearing deviant. This is particular in the line judgement study done by Solomon Asch. Like 37% of participants in Asch’s experiment, the more hesitant jurors choose to make a decision that coincides with the majority ven though they are experiencing uneasiness and conflict with this decision (Walker & Andrade, 1996).
Perhaps the power of the need to feel accepted is most evident in the character of juror number two, a rather meek and hesitant individual, who during several occasions of being confronted by more strong-willed or hostile jurors, displays quick retreat in his subtle opinions. Informative social influence is also apparent in “Twelve Angry Men”.
Juror number twelve, a well-dressed, advertising businessman for “Rice Pops” exhibits a character that is easily-swayed by convincing arguments from both sides. He first changes his vote from guilty to not guilty after juror number five’s demonstration with the switchblade only to change his vote again after he is overwhelmed with “evidence that he is unable to arrange in order. ” His inability to explain his reasons for his decisions to change his votes demonstrates the complication of the situation as well as his own feelings of incompetency (Myers, Spencer, & Jordan, 2009).
Instead, juror number twelve relies on the arguments of other jurors and changes his votes according to the credibility of other’s judgments. Group Influence There is no doubt that people are often susceptible to conformity. However, another closer look at “Twelve Angry Men” reveals more than just social influences. We continue to see how groupthink, group polarization, and minority influence influences each and every character. Let us not overlook the obvious fact that there is one key individual throughout this film.
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If he had not withstood his decision to discuss the trial further, there would have been no point in the film. In fact, without a dissenter amongst the group, the jurors is more than likely to engage in groupthink, a theory that suggests a type of thinking that overrides what is realistic for the sake of group unity. The influence of the deviant juror has allowed, most importantly, an exposure to differing opinions. Juror number eight, our deviant juror, proves to be an effective minority influence.
His consistency in his convictions for a fair assessment of the trial and his unwavering, yet objective confidence makes him a powerful one man influence on the group’s ultimate decision (Sloan, Berman, Zeigler-Hill, & Bullock, 2009).
Conclusion “Twelve Angry Men” not only highlights the fragility of justice, but also the flaws of human nature. We would think that twelve men, though with different backgrounds but with a seemingly good grasp of the situation and sound minds, would come together and provide a fair and just verdict.
However, the film has certainly demonstrated the dangers and limitations of conformity and group influence. In the place of these men, we are probably no different than they are. Very few of us would find ourselves in the position played by the deviant juror and it would have been, of our very doing, an inevitable death sentence on a possibly innocent young man. An awareness of these social psychology theories is valuable and essential in the understanding of why we think and behave the way we do.
Works Cited Myers, D. G. , Spencer, S. J. , & Jordan, C. H. (2009) Social Psychology (4th Canadian ed. ).
Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson. Sloan, P. , Berman, M. , Zeigler-Hill, V. , & Bullock, J. (2009).
Introduction “What social psychology has given to an understanding of human nature is the discovery that forces larger than ourselves determine our mental life and our actions – chief among these forces [is] the power of the social situation” ― Mahrzarin Banaji The Banaji quote is the perfect description of social psychology and the intellectual forces behind the journey of its discovery. ...
Group influence on self-aggression: Conformity and dissenter effects. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 28(5), 535-553. Walker, M. B. , & Andrade, M. G. (1996) Conformity in the Asch task as a function of age. The Journal of Social Psychology, 136, 367-372.