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Movie Analysis "12 Angry Men" Jay Rosen

Essay by   •  December 22, 2011  •  Book/Movie Report  •  2,712 Words (11 Pages)  •  2,905 Views

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Commentary On This Project

This is a great example of a social psychological movie analysis. The student

has taken on a movie classic. He gives just enough of the plot at the start of the

paper to orient the reader, then provides additional plot details as needed to

dissect specific pieces of action as they unfold at different points in the film. He

organizes the paper around three main themes, (conformity, attitude change and

persuasion, and group process), and within these he brings to bear a number of

different theories and perspectives. In doing so, he goes well beyond the

minimal requirements for the paper (i.e., the "rule of three"). In each case, the

application of social psychological theory is appropriate and convincing. Except

for a few minor flaws, the paper is well written. This was a fun paper to read.

Jim Larson

Movie Analysis

"12 Angry Men"

Jay Rosen

Social Psychology

Larson 312

The film "12 Angry Men" exemplifies many social psychology theories. This

tense, compelling film, features a group of jurors who must decide the guilt or innocence

of an accused murder. Initially eleven of the twelve jurors vote guilty. Gradually,

through heated discussion, the jurors are swayed to a not-guilty decision. Upon

examination, the film highlights social psychology theories in areas of conformity,

attitude change and group process.

Conformity

Within the context of the jury room conformity is a dangerous device. "Twelve

Angry Men" exemplifies the power of informational social influence and normative

social influence, theories developed through the research of Muzafer Sherif, Solomon

Asch and others. According to informational social influence individuals conform

because they believe that other's interpretation of an ambiguous situation is more salient,

or valid, than their own. Normative social influence is a theory that posits the cause of

individual conformity due to the possibility of appearing deviant.

Judging other's interpretations of an ambiguous event often leads to conformity

caused by informational social influence. This theory is applicable within the juror's

decisional processes of the "Twelve Angry Men." Informational social influence is

exacerbated by ambiguity of situation, importance of being correct, time constraints, and

presence of those perceived as experts.

Conformity due to social influence is portrayed within the first moments of the

film. Within the jury room, heated debate is precluded by an initial vote. This vote, taken

publicly, was susceptible to normative social influence, an element of social influence, or

conformity due to a fear of appearing deviant. As the jurors cast their initial vote, hesitancy is obvious in many of the eleven whom vote guilty. This timidity can be

interpreted as weak conviction swayed by the guilty majority's influence.

Two of the jurors, a particularly irascible individual and a sickly, prejudiced man,

appeal to normative social influence. The volatile man quickly bolsters his position when

he vituperates, "of course he is guilty," prior to the vote being taken. The sickly man

exclaims after the vote and Henry Fonda's deviation, "there's always has to be one."

Both men attempt to harness the power of normative social influence to convince all that

a guilty vote is applicable.

Informational social influence, or conformity based on others views, is

exacerbated by time constraints. The nature of a jury, despite philosophical leanings, is

one of severe time pressure. The courts are an overburdened element within our justice

system. Perceived pressure, upon a jury, by judges and prosecutors alike, could confound

the jury process and create conformity according to the theory of normative informational

social influence. Though the film is void of any references from the judge regarding

timelines of decision this is a relevant factor possibly influencing the "12 Angry Men,"

and must be considered as a potential factor in creating normative social influence.

An additional time constraint is placed upon the jury by their wishes and needs.

Many of the men, in this all-male jury, describe their employment or other aspects of life

Jury duty impedes their life's progress, creating an unmentioned time constraint. As the

sickly man exclaims, "I have three stations to attend to,"

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