12 Angry Men 2

12 Angry Men 2There are few examples of group dynamics as complete and realistic as the film “Twelve Angry Men”. This film was not only entertaining, but it also serves as a great example of many of the aspects of social psychology. Including too many concepts to name, the film touched on several very important theories: process loss in group decisions, groupthink, the fatal attribution error, normative social influence, and social norms.
One of the first concepts to be seen in the film was process loss in group decisions. Process loss is any part of group functioning that will inhibit good problem solving. This occurs when a group follows the leadership of one of its lesser informed members, much like the group of men following the leadership of the head juror; although he was not the most qualified member of the group he was in charge of explaining their duties to the others. It could also be argued that the most active jurors for prosecution were less qualified leaders as well. As quickly as one man could say it was an open and shut case all the other jurors had followed his lead and agreed. Another cause of process loss seen in the movie was the failure to share relevant information. For the opening stage of deliberations Mr. Davis says nothing of the doubts and theories he has on why the boy is innocent; the other jurors share the information that leads them to believe he is guilty and all come to the conclusion that he should be convicted.
A very important aspect of group interactions closely related to process loss is groupthink. It is actually a cause of process loss where the cohesiveness of the group becomes more important to its members than actually considering the facts. This is incredibly applicable to the characters in the film because the very conditions that lead to groupthink are those that characterize a jury; the group must be cohesive, isolated, high stress and have obvious and strong leadership. This phenomenon leads to the censorship of members and the pressure to conform as we see in the early stages of the deliberation process in the film. The film also addresses one of the main ways to combat group think; they utilize a secret ballot and allow the jurors to remain anonymous. The usefulness of these techniques to reduce groupthink are immediately evident in the film; while all others are watching the vote remains 11-1 and when a secret ballot is utilized the vote becomes only 10-2 in favor of conviction.
After the jurors realize the deliberations are going to take longer than first thought, they enter into a stage of discussion where another key aspect of social psychology becomes evident. The fundamental attribution error occurs when persons focus too much on the internal, dispositional causes of actions and underestimate the effect of the situation on behavior. It is quite clear who is making the fundamental attribution error when the jurors begin talking about the defendant and his background. One of the jurors for prosecution stated that “children from the slums (the suspect’s home) were nothing but potential menaces to society” and another simply called his type liars; they also brought up his past record. They are clearly attacking this man’s character and stating that the situation was not incredibly important. Even if the evidence does not necessarily add up the man is still a liar and his type does not deserve to be free. Only a few jurors fight this error of judgment and remind the others that his rough upbringing may have had something to do with his past convictions and that this situation did not necessarily warrant violence toward his father.
Another aspect of social psychology that is demonstrated by the characters in the film is that of social roles and the need to follow them. Social norms are rules that explain how persons are expected to behave in certain situations; if a social norm is rebelled against the results are often extreme. Mr. Davis is the lone dissenter one of the other jurors asks that he tell the group where he was “mixed up” so they could try to “straighten (him) out”. Another example of this same sort of behavior occurs when one of the last three jurors standing for conviction begins speaking passionately about his prejudicial beliefs about the defendant. As he is talking, the other members of the jury remove themselves from the table and proceed to ignore him.
Lastly, this film cannot be critiqued without discussing normative social influence, conforming in order to be accepted and liked by others. It is a clearly present factor in the actions of the characters in the film seen from the very first vote of the jurors; during the preliminary vote when asked for a guilty vote only a few hands were raised immediately while most waited until they had seen what the others would choose. This effect is most famously demonstrated in the study by Asch conducted in 1951. In this study participants were asked to select one of three lines that most closely matched the standard line given while in groups of 6. All but one of the participants was confederates and gave the same incorrect answer for each of the line sets. Because of the pressure to conform to the group, the participant chose the group’s answer over the correct one at least once in 76 percent of trials. This is the same effect that 11 other jurors can have on a person in a deliberation setting; when it appeared that all group members would choose guilty all but one conformed to the group. There are several reasons why it is difficult for a person to stand out as a minority among a larger group; if the group is very close in time and space it is harder to stand alone and it is also more difficult when the group is three or more-all of these factors tied to the jury setting. One other factor that increases the effect of normative social influence is the availability of allies. This was seen in the Asch study by participants yielding to the group in only 5 percent of trials when given a partner or ally who also chose the correct answer. We also see this in the film; when the fourth juror changes his vote to not guilty one of the other not guilty voters smiles and nods his head in approval when the other juror looks to him.
It has become quite obvious that the film “Twelve Angry Men” is not only still entertaining despite its old age, but it is also a wealth of social psychological knowledge. Several important theories and aspects of the field are clearly demonstrated by the characters in the film, such as groupthink, the fatal attribution error, and normative social influence. These as well as several others mark this film as one that will maintain its status in the classroom for many years to come, until another film manages to capture the complexities group dynamics so masterfully and completely.

12 Angry Men 2 8.5 of 10 on the basis of 1265 Review.