Group Processes: 12 Angry Men the Movie Data Analysis Chapter

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Group Processes: 12 Angry Men

The movie 12 Angry Men may be one of the most comprehensive studies of group processes in the history of American cinema. Most people are familiar with the film: 12 men are convened to sit on a jury in order to determine the fate of a young Hispanic male who is accused of murdering his father. All of the men are white males, which was representative of a jury at that time period, but certainly reflected a lack of diversity in many ways. The most significant lack of diversity may have been reflected in their very basic differences from the defendant whose fate they were judging. What is most interesting about the film is how it exemplifies what is known about group sampling.

At the beginning of the movie, one of the first thing that is noticeable is that the jurors all engage in biased sampling. Biased sampling refers to the tendency for groups to spend more time discussing shared information than unshared information. When the jury deliberations begin, the jurors are discussing the shared information that they have. This shared information has led six of them to the same conclusion, which is that the defendant is guilty of the murder of his father.Get full Download Microsoft Word File access
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Data Analysis Chapter on Group Processes: 12 Angry Men the Movie Assignment

This biased sampling also leads to the phenomenon of group polarization. Taking the initial vote as an example, one sees how people use the initial tendencies of the group, which is a strong leaning towards finding the defendant guilty, are exacerbated even in the initial vote. In the first vote, six men initially put their hands up, which suggests that only half of them are strongly convinced of their position. However, as people began to see how others were voting, more of the jurors began to raise their hands, so that each vote helped further polarize the jury and move it towards a position. Furthermore, as each of the eleven jurors who were initially convinced of the defendant's guilt explained his position, the explanations strengthened the idea that the defendant was guilty and further polarized the group. By the time that Henry Fonda's character, the lone initial dissenter, explained his position, he was well outside of the normative parameters that had already been established by the group, even though the movie made it clear that only about half of the jurors were strongly convinced of the defendant's guilt at the beginning of the film.

In some ways, this could even be described as a form of groupthink. Generally, groupthink refers to "A group decision-making style characterized by an excessive tendency among group members to seek concurrence" (Kassin et al., 2010). The members of the jury are certainly attempting to reach concurrence. However, it may be erroneous to describe their behavior as groupthink. After all, a jury functions differently than other groups in that a jury is tasked with making a unanimous decision in ways that other groups simply are not. As a result, whether it is appropriate to look at a jury's decision-making process as a result of groupthink is debatable. However, it is clear that the jury process encourages the group members to engage in a groupthink manner because of the pressure to come to a unanimous decision.

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