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12 Angry Men Essay Sample

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12 Angry Men Essay Sample

Introduction
12 Angry Men is the captivating story of 12 jurors trying to solve a case of murder. All with different personalities, fights break out and disagreements occur. However in the end, a lesson is learnt for everyone. When the story begins, all the jurors are eager to convict the defendant, a young minority, on charges of murdering his father. Juror 8 is the lone dissenter. The jury’s deliberations go through a surprizing shift and one by one, the other 11 jurors feel compelled to re-examine their original decision through the lens of their own character and the background of their own lives. The film demonstrates various aspects of group dynamics, groupthink, conflict resolution, negotiation, power, social perception, communication and coaliances, all of which will be discussed further.

Group Dynamics
According to Johnson & Johnson (2009) ‘Group dynamics is the area of social science that focuses on advancing knowledge about the nature of group life. It is the scientific study of the nature of groups, behaviour in groups, group development, and the interrelations between groups and individuals, other groups, and larger entities.’ Groups go through the phases of forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning. The group dynamics of the jury portrayed in 12 Angry Men illustrates the progress through these stages, however, it is done in an interrupted way rather than a constant and evolutionary manner. The forming stage is very short, while the storming phase takes up most of the film. The norming phase takes place quickly and right before the performing phase, where the decision on the verdict is reached (Hord, Huebner, Morgan, & Yoo, 2011). The initial forming stage in the film is demonstrated when the jurors make casual conversation about sports, news, and the weather. The jurors wait for one team member to re-join them from the mens room, while trying to cool the room with a fan that doesn’t seem to work. In this stage the men make the decision to hold an initial vote on the defendant’s guilt. While some of the group members appear slightly hesitant to indicate their vote by show of hands, they don’t object. At this stage the jury men feel uncomfortable with the other group members.

They are uncertain of how to act, and so try appear polite and compliant. Following this opening orientation, a stage of conflict develops, signifying the storming stage. Juror 8’s single vote of ‘not guilty’ initiates the storming stage (Hord et al, 2011). Juror 8 knows that conflict will arise when he makes the choice to disagree with the other eleven jurors who voted guilty. In this storming stage the jurors feel more open to disagree over procedures and become divided into coalitions as various views are shared which lead to a deeper understanding of the members’ positions. The movie reaches a point where the storming stage begins to overlap with a stage of norming. In the norming stage the group starts to organize themselves and set some ground rules, and as a result the level of trust among the jury begins to increase. The members agree on Juror 8’s suggestion that they discuss the case for at least an hour before making a decision. They decide that they will all listen as each juror attempts to “convince” Juror 8 of the defendant’s guilt. Juror 10’s outburst disrupts this process of listening to each man in turn, and when the jurors attempt to return to the process of going around the table in order, Juror 5 refuses to disclose his reasoning and “passes.” With increasing discussions of the jurors’ reasoning, trust-building seems to occur, and Juror 3 and 5 open up about their own personal issues.

Performing is the stage at which the group concentrates on the task at hand and collaborate to make a decision and finish the task (Hord et al, 2011). As each piece of evidence or testimony is considered, the men focus on testing its legitimacy to incorporate into their decision-making (Hord et al, 2011). The men continue to get to know each other through their interactions in the mens room, closing the windows when the rain begins, and through their discussions about personal thoughts and feelings on the verdict. The men also argue over the credibility of eye witness testimony, the aptitude of the defence lawyer, and the defendant’s alibi. The method of the murder is also debated, complete with a re-enactment. The adjourning stage of completing the task and dissolution is done very rapidly once the unanimous vote has been reached. The men in the film do not seem particularly anxious about adjourning as there is no indication that a particularly strong bond or connection has developed in their time together. Only Juror 8 and 9 introduce themselves to each before they go their separate ways. Because of the nature of the task of the jury, there was never an expectation of continued relationships once the decision had been reached (Hord et al, 2011).

Groupthink
Groupthink arises when the pressures to conform are so great that independent thoughts and actions are restricted (William, 2013). When groupthink occurs several common characteristics can easily been seen, such as an illusion of invulnerability, the use of out-group stereotypes and direct pressure on dissenters. We can see illustrations of these elements of groupthink in the film, 12 Angry Men. During the jury deliberations, the jurors rushed through the process, and some jurors even played Hangman. Any juror who disagreed with the original consensus was verbally attacked. These events clearly illustrate an illusion of exception, a belief in the inherent morality of the group and direct pressure on dissenters (William, 2013). The speed at which the jury originally came to consensus, along with how little attention some jurors paid illustrates how invulnerable they felt. That is, they were so certain that they were right that they felt that they could rush through deliberations and goof off.

The comments made by some of the jurors regarding minority groups indicates that many felt free to use stereotypes about the out-group (in this case, poor people like the defendant). Finally, everyone verbally attacked Juror 8 when he questioned the guilty verdict, and when Juror 9 spoke in support of Juror 8, he was ridiculed and had paper wads thrown at him. This illustrates direct verbal and physical pressure on dissenters. This theory exists most often in groups, due to people preferring to agree with the majority instead of being open to criticism by voicing their own thoughts and opinions. This results from various reasons, such as truly lacking opinion or simply wanting to finish up and leave. This is especially evident in Juror 12 and 2 (William, 2013). Juror 12 keeps very much to himself and does not appear to have an opinion. It seems that he is happy to settle with whatever new idea is proposed, without thinking about the true depth and importance of the issue. Juror 2 seems shy and quiet up until the very end of the movie, but then he brings up a point about the switchblade and changes his vote to “not guilty”. However, by staying discreet he showed his fear of standing out and going against the majority to avoid conflict.

Conflict resolution styles
12 Angry Men revolves around several types of conflict. According to the World Book dictionary, a conflict is a fight, struggle, battle, disagreement, dispute, or quarrel. A conflict of interest exists when the actions of one person attempting to maximise his or her benefits prevent, block, interfere with, injure, or in some way make less effective the actions of another person attempting to maximise his or her benefits. (Johnson, 2009). There are five conflict resolution styles, which are all displayed at some point in the movie: Competing

Competing is considered to be the “win-lose” approach, where a person behaves in a forceful manner to achieve their goals, often at the expense of the other party. This approach works well when time is of the essence, or when a quick, decisive action is needed (Eclaires, 2011). This type of style is illustrated when Juror 8 takes matters into his own hands and purchases a duplicate knife to the murder weapon. He slams it dramatically on the table to command the attention of the others. He also forces the other jurors to see the importance of the situation, such as when he rips up the Hangman paper, saying “This isn’t a game!” In addition, Juror 5 demonstrates competing with Juror 8 by saying “He’s guilty, we can talk all day and it won’t change my mind.” Furthermore, Juror 10 threatens his unwavering stance when he says, “These people coming out of slums are trash”. He is then told to keep quite after his racist outburst. When the vote changes, the Juror 3 demands “You tell me why you changed your vote!” Avoidance

Avoidance is simply to evade the issue. It does not help the other party reach their goals, nor does it assertively attain one’s own. This is very effective when there is a very emotionally charged atmosphere and space is needed (Eclaires, 2011). Juror 8 demonstrates avoidance in the beginning when he stands by himself and does not interact with the others. He avoids participating in the conversation until the time is right to bring up his counter argument. After a 6:6 vote, juror 8 doesn’t say or do anything, and just waits quietly for the group to proceed. Juror 3 demonstrates avoidance when he leaves the room while Juror 9 is speaking. Compromising

Compromising, which requires a fair level of firmness and collaboration, is the “lose-lose” scenario where neither party really attains what they want. It is best used in scenarios where a temporary solution is needed, or where both sides have equally important goals (Eclaires, 2011). Near the beginning Juror 5 is eager to get the voting done so that he can attend his sports match to which he has tickets. Juror 8 proposes a compromise by saying, “Let’s take an hour; the ballgame doesn’t start until 8pm.” Juror 8 also shows compromise in his opinions by admitting the others may be right, but uses it to also plant a seed of doubt by saying persistently, “I don’t know whether he’s guilty or not… But it’s possible.” The group also agrees to compromise by agreeing to take time to talk and discuss the verdict before casting the final vote. Juror 9 further validates the importance for compromise by explaining it’s “only one night… and the boy may die… so it’s not easy for someone to stand alone.” The group further surrenders to compromise one at a time by listening to the justification of the arguments and changing votes. Accommodating

Accommodation is when a person cooperates to such an extent that they often compromise on their own goals and desired outcomes. This approach is mostly effective when the opposing side has a better solution (Eclaires, 2011). Juror 8 offers to refrain from voting, and will agree to their decision should there be a unanimous “guilty” vote. If at least one juror voted “not guilty” however, the deliberations should continue. Accommodation is also shown when the Juror 12 says to Juror 9, “You go ahead and say anything you like. We’ll listen.” Collaborating

Collaboration is partnering with the opposition to achieve goals on both sides. This is considered breaking free of the “win-lose” paradigm and seeking the “win-win.” This can be useful for situations where a novel solution must be found. A high degree of trust between parties is required. It often requires much time and energy to get everyone working together to bring forth ideas to reach a consensus (Eclaires, 2011). Juror 8 demonstrates collaboration numerous times when he asks for help and time because it’s important. He works to help calculate the train speed and timing as well as helps try to remember movies names and timing about testimony. Juror 8 fosters collaboration throughout by asking questions, listening, reflecting and responding. He helps create a climate of problem-solving. The foreman also shows collaboration when he suggests at beginning that they go around the room and tell Juror 8 why they think the boy is guilty. The other jurors collaborate when they work together to walk out and time the steps for a witness’s testimony. The jurors act out how the knife would be stabbed at a downward angle, and Juror 5 explains how to properly use a switchblade. They also collaborate together in the discussion of the woman’s testimony and eyeglasses regarding faulty vision (Eclaires, 2011).

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