Everyone dreads Jury duty. Jury duty is commonly known as a nuisance that gets in the way of our everyday lives. When one types in the words “jury duty” into the google search bar that individual finds the first few search results to be “get out of jury duty” or “jury duty excuses”. However, we fail to realize that the role of a juror is essential to the United States justice system, we also fail to realize that every single juror counts. We often hear of jurors conforming, and switching their votes to the majority vote in hopes of going home, but this is not the case in “12 Angry Men”.
In Sidney Lumet’s feature film “12 Angry Men”, we are given insight to the pressures of social psychology and how one man strives to overcome and change it. Summary In the movie, “12 Angry Men”, we are immediately thrown into the room of 12 jurors deciding the fate of an alleged murderer. An eighteen year old boy, from the slum, is on trial for stabbing his father to death. If found guilty, the boy would receive a death sentence. As deliberations proceed we immediately notice social biases, prejudice, stereotypes towards the accused.
All jurors, aside from juror eight, has deemed the accused guilty. Due to the requirement of a unanimous decision, the jurors are forced to further discuss the case. We then witness direct pressure on the dissenter, juror eight, to conform to the majority; but after further deliberation as well as the debunking of witness testimonies, we see more and more “not guilty” votes. We see juror eight breaking the psychological social constructions of biased and prejudiced. One by one, we see juror 8 influencing the other jurors to cast their vote as not guilty.
Social Psychological Concepts Confirmation Bias The majority of jurors were quick to cast their vote as guilty, as they disregarded many details of the case that disconfirmed their beliefs. This phenomenon is what is known as the confirmation bias. Psychologists define confirmation bias as a person’s tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms to one’s preconceptions, this in return leads to statistical errors. Due to the belief that the defendant was guilty, the 11 jurors who had submitted their vote as guilty were not impartial.
The 11 jurors who had casted their vote as guilty paid no attention to the possibility of reasonable doubt. For example, juror 10 displays prejudice towards people that live in the slums. He said adamantly, “You can’t believe a word they say. ” However, when it came to the witness that confirmed his beliefs, he blindly believed the lady because “she swore she saw him do it. ” Juror 10 had already made up his mind far before the deliberations even started. This lead to confirmation bias towards the case. The contradicting statements from the witnesses may have provided reasonable doubt from the start of the deliberation.
In the film, an old man who lived downstairs of the apartment said that he heard the boy scream “I’ll kill you” and then subsequently heard a body hit the floor. In another witness statement we hear a lady swearing that she “saw the boy killing the father through her window while the el train was passing. ” Their testimonies were questionable to juror 8 because he believed that the noise of a train passing would have drowned out the noise of any screaming. 11 out of 12 jurors heard two witnesses confirming that accused was a murderer, but failed to weigh and connect the contradicting statements.
Furthermore, the details of the knife used as the murder weapon was overlooked. One of the jurors specified that the knife was unique and the seller of the knife said it was a “one-of-a-kind knife. ” However, juror 8 bought a knife exactly like it after walking about the neighborhood where the boy lived. 11 jurors believed that the knife was a unique piece based solely on the fact that the seller said it was. They would have condemned an eighteen-year-old boy to death without fact checking their evidence because of confirmation bias.
Simply stated, the jurors never thought that the testimony of the seller of the knife could have been false or inaccurate. Psychologically, we are wired to hear or believe what we want to, but we must break social constructs in order to be fair and just. Minority influence Juror 8 is a strong willed individual that knows he has a voice and knows how to utilize it. His ability to remain calm and consistent allows him to influence other jurors to believe in reasonable doubt. Juror 8’s ability to influence the other jurors is commonly referred as minority influence.
Many psychologist believes minority influence happens when an individual from the minority group influences the majority to accept the individual’s beliefs. This is exactly what happens in the film. As the only juror that had the original vote of “not guilty”, juror eight is in the minority group. In the film, we see juror 8 convince the other jurors one-by-one to change their vote and beliefs. However, it is not to say that all minority groups are able to convince the majority. Some of the factors that made juror 8’s influence so powerful was his self-confidence and his consistency.
Juror 8’s self-confidence was clearly displayed. Juror 8’s fast responses lead the other jurors to believe that he was trustworthy and swayed the other jurors to have the same belief as him. Throughout the film, juror 8 remained consistent in the way he questioned the evidence and as well as in the way he questioned the witnesses. He demanded the other juror’s attention when they were distracted. His strong stance in his beliefs may have lead the other jurors to think further about the issues. This could have been the reason for juror 9’s shift in vote during the secret ballot.
Minority influence is a powerful thing, when used correctly. Conformity. Normative vs. informational influences Conformity plays a big part in the film of 12 Angry Men. Psychologist Solomon Asch defines conformity as the changing of beliefs due to either the real or the imagined pressures exerted on an individual by the ones around them. Normative and informational influences are two ways that convinced the jurors’ 7 and 4 to conform. Normative influence is defined as the influence that directs us to conforming in order to be accepted by the group.
In other words, we go along to get along. An example of this was when juror 7 had switched his vote after the majority of votes became “not guilty. ” Juror 7 did not have his own insight nor his own reason as to why he thought the defendant should be deemed “not guilty. ” Normative influence often leads to compliance, to act in accordance with the wishes of others even though you aren’t in agreement. When juror 7 was confronted and asked for the reason why he had changed his vote, he said quietly, “I… don’t think … he’s guilty.
Juror 7 did not believe that the defendant was “not guilty”, he simply went along with the group despite his belief. In short, juror 7 changed his vote due to imagined pressure from the other jurors. The opposite of normative influence, informational influence is also displayed in this film. Informational influences can be defined as the phenomenon where an individual conforms due to the information that was provided by others. A clear example of informational influence was from actions of juror 4. Juror 4’s only concern was the facts.
Therefore, juror 4 conformed after jury members discussed the high possibility that the female witness may have poor eyesight and couldn’t possibly see the murder. This information was what convinced juror 4 to conform and change his vote from “guilty” to “not guilty. ” This type of conformity can be categorized as acceptance. Acceptance is the sincere belief that what they are doing right. Juror 4’s road to acceptance would have never happened if he didn’t have the desire to know the facts. My View When discussing human behavior, I often recall to Milgram’s obedience study and his fundamental attribution error.
In the past, I used a person’s actions or demeanor as a way describe their human behavior. In focusing on these internal personality traits, I tend to judge the person on their actions and blame them. For example, a few semesters ago, I was in a class that required a group project as the final exam. One of my group members lacked work ethic and so I blamed them for being lazy. The fundamental attribution error has taught me that anyone, including myself, can exhibit offensive or destructive behavior when influenced to do so.
An example of this can be found in Milgram’s study on obedience. The ‘teachers’ that were appointed to shock the learner for each wrong question were often labeled as terrible people because their actions. Fundamental attribution error encourages us to look at the external factors such as the presence of the experimenter that kept pushing the teacher to go on. My views on human behavior have changed because of the fundamental attribution error. Although I still judge people from their actions, I often find myself wondering the external factors that may have influenced that action.