12 Angry Men is a story of twelve jurors responsible for deliberating and deciding the fate of a teenage boy accused of murdering his father. Although it seems to the jurors that the boy is unquestionably guilty, one juror (Juror 8) speaks out against the comfortable groupthink of the other jurors. Juror 8, Henry Fonda, approaches the issue from a teamwork point of view, and over and over again gains acceptance his views as he calmly and realistically discusses what he believed are inconsistencies in the case.
This movie is an excellent example of how one person standing up against popular groupthink can, in fact, influence the rest of the group to his way of thinking and help them overcome The Spiral of Silence Theory. There are also many underlying issues of power and control/leadership throughout the film, resulting in multiple conflicts and confrontations. The jurors in 12 Angry Men possessed a lot of the same qualities that would typically lead to groupthink. For example, the majority of the jurors had a belief in the moral accuracy of their own decisions, that they were punishing a ‘bad’ person.
They also had a stereotypical outlook on those who opposed their views, resulting in a feeling of pressure to conform. When a group like the jurors becomes too confident, it keeps them from being able to deal realistically and clearly about the task at hand. This is when groupthink occurs. Because of this, it takes a longer time to communicate and, more importantly, to reach a consensus. Group agreement can be time consuming and, when groups make speed of verdict a priority, similar to the twelve jurors, they risk accuracy in their decision-making.
Due to the fact that not any one individual is fully responsible for the decision, people have a tendency to agree to faster, more intense solutions. Juror 8, Henry Fonda, refused to fall into groupthink and in the end saved an innocent boy’s life. Henry admitted that he did not know whether the accused boy was guilty or innocent, so he thought it was necessary to discuss the case further. What follows is not only a discussion of the facts of the case, but also an exposure of the personal issues that each jury member brought to the debate.
Through all this, the minority is able to convince the majority, one juror at a time, to overcome the group rather than the reverse, in which the minority would become victim to The Spiral of Silence Theory, reminiscent of the juror members during the first vote. The initial vote that was taken was open. They voted by raising their hands and several of the jurors, who later expressed that they weren’t sure the boy was guilty, looked around to see how the other people were voting. However, when the poll was anonymous, some of the jurors didn’t conform.
The first example of someone that primarily conformed because of group pressure was Juror 5, who grew up in the slums himself. He didn’t say much at first, but did appear to be unsure. Having been a slum kid himself, he had uncertainties, but still went along with the majority originally because of pressure. The next example was Juror 9, Joseph Sweeney who was the oldest member of the jury. Joseph initially conformed as well in the open vote, but in time switched when it was anonymous, breaking free from the Spiral of Silence Theory.
Lastly, Juror 7, Jack Warden, went along with whatever was the mainstream opinion because he just wanted to go to a baseball game he had tickets to. When the majority voted guilty, he voted guilty, but when the majority switched over to not guilty, he changed his vote to not guilty. However, he failed to follow up with any reason as to why he had a change of heart. Juror 8 is the lead character in the film. He is a calm and respectful man who is self-confident but not forceful. As the film progresses, he assumes a leadership role, basically because no one else sees the case the way he does.
He is task oriented and focused on the maintenance of the group of jurors as well as the discussion. His negotiating style is collaborative and he uses a brilliant integrative decision making style which he uses to gather as much detail as possible before reaching any conclusion. He also creates closeness between himself and other jurors by adapting his communication style to theirs. Consequently, this makes the other juror members more open to what he has to say. Juror 9 is an attentive and sharp elderly man who becomes the support of the discussion. His life experience and knowledge gives him a unique, relevant way of looking at the case.
The elderly man gains a lot of trust and, as a result, develops respect from the other men. He plays a huge role in maintenance by gaining this credibility. Juror 4 and Juror 7 were the essence of self- centeredness. Juror 4 was highly convinced that he was above the other men. He shut out every one else and kept to himself, making his main focus far from one of maintenance. However, he was task oriented in a sense. For example, he was concerned in hard facts, listened well, and carefully considered all evidence that was presented. Juror 7 neither cared about maintenance nor was task- oriented.
All he cared about was a quick decision so he could get to the baseball game. He was so self-absorbed that he failed to stop and think that someone’s life was on the line. He was too focused on getting to the game which, ironically, was rained out while he was deliberating a man’s life. Juror 7 was anxious, narrow-minded, and disrespectful. Throughout the movie his thoughts were never on the task at hand, the defendant, or even his fellow jurors. He lacked maintenance because he did not care to hear other opinions. Juror 1 attempted to first lead the group by trying to sustain authority and directing how the debate would develop.
It became clear, however, that he was not suited to be foreman. He became irritated with the other jurors. Juror 4 lacked any potential at becoming a leader because of his belief that he was above everyone else. He was too single-minded when considering all the facts. Juror 9 was the old man who had potential of being a leader but his opinions were not taken into consideration, initially, due to his age. Juror 8 irrefutably demonstrated many characteristics of a leader. He was very open to other views, valued everyone’s opinion, didn’t try to control conversations, and respectfully participated in every discussion.
Pseudo, simple, and ego are the three types of interpersonal conflict shown between the jurors. Juror 6 and Juror 11 got into a pseudo conflict over Juror 7’s choice to vote not guilty. Juror 11 believed Juror 7 was voting not guilty so that he could hurry the jury along in order to get to his baseball game. However, Juror 7 believed that the defendant wasn’t guilty and he insisted that he was not changing his vote just so he could leave early. As a result, while Juror 11 and 7 both agreed on their ideas, Juror 11 had a misinterpretation of Juror 7’s perception of the problem.
Juror 12 tended to go back and forth on his position, but his decision was ultimately influenced by the simple conflict that was in the group. Juror 10 was an intolerable man with and prejudice towards people from the slums. His discrimination caused conflict among the other men. However, after some time, he changed his vote to not guilty. He was involved in simple conflict with the rest of the jurors. Juror 3 was the last juror member to vote not guilty and held on to this position because of his ego. Juror 3 was involved in ego conflict with most of the other men.