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12 Angry Man

Essay by review  •  January 22, 2011  •  Essay  •  1,216 Words (5 Pages)  •  1,607 Views

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The behaviour of individuals in any large dynamic group naturally exhibits various signs of either conscious or subconscious conformity. The psychological principle of conformity which related to social influence basically refers to an exertion on the will of the affected individual to act in a manner that is not in accordance with oneÐŽ¦s actual beliefs. Many different studies of conformity as a result of social influence have been conducted which reveal that almost all conformist responses to social influence can be narrowed down to three distinctive types: compliance, identification and internalization. This paper will use 12 Angry Men as a case study on the dynamics of social influence, especially the influence of individual nonconformist, on social conformity.

The film 12 Angry Men is a claustrophobic tale of what happens during jury deliberations following the trial of a young man who is accused of murdering his father. The plot is about how a dissenting juror in a murder trial slowly manages to convince the other members of the jury that the case is not as obviously clear as it seemed in court. The opening scenes portrays a one-sided opinion of the jury that the defendant would most likely to be proven guilty. Hitherto, the conviction of the accused would be without a doubt. An initial vote on guilty/not guilty is then conducted and the result ends up in 11-1. There is one lone dissenter who reveals that he votes for ЎҐnot guiltyÐŽ¦. The dissenter further explains that his not-guilty vote does not imply his belief in the innocence of the accused. Alternatively, he believes that the fate of one manÐŽ¦s life deserves discussion of some time and a more thorough study on the evidence. It does not take long to reveal that many of the men has come to the jury with predisposed prejudices, personal reasons for ending the proceedings without thoughtful deliberations, or other psychological problems that may affect the impartiality of their judgment. The relevant scene for this paper occurs shortly after the second vote with the surprising revelation that two of the men in the jury claims that they are not ready to convict the accused without an in-depth re-examination of the evidence. This scene is chosen to study the dynamics of social influence, especially the influence of a lone dissenter on social conformity in this paper.

The social influence persists in the studied scene in the film is mainly exemplified in the presence of the lone dissenter. At this point in the film, only one juror stands against the unanimous vote necessary to convict the accused. The concept of the lone dissenter could be traced back to the Catholic Church practice of assigning a devilÐŽ¦s advocate who would speak in evidence against those who had been chosen for canonization as a saint. The devilÐŽ¦s advocate might not be in opposition to the idea of canonizing the candidate, but his presence merely serves the purpose of offering hypothetical arguments against the case. Likewise, the lone dissenting juror in the film serves similar purposes. In fact, as this sequence begins he excuses himself from voting and accedes to voting guilty if there is no one else willing to vote not guilty in a secret ballot.

The secret ballot itself is a vital instrument in the jurorÐŽ¦s mechanism of social influence. The secret ballot exercises its influence over social conformity in the scene when two or three hands go up more tentatively in the second vote right after the secret ballot. This stands in a marked contrast with the initial vote in the opening scene when several hands are raised immediately in support of a guilty vote. Consequently, we can see the degree of conformity in the arena of voting tends to decrease when no one else is aware of oneÐŽ¦s opinion. The dissenting juror probably counted on this secret ballot in providing a higher probability of convincing other jurors to join him.

The scene in 12 Angry Men in which the secret ballot is taken place is, of course, the turning point in the film. From this point of the film onwards, the majority of the jurors are no longer faced with the single dissenting voice. Instead, rather than attempting to gang up on the one lone voice, there are now two in the dissenting side which must be convinced in order to reach a consensus. The situation is further

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