Psych In 12 Angry Men Essay, Research Paper
The film Twelve Angry Men follows the jury deliberation of a first degree murder case. The jury, totaling twelve men, dispute their decision of innocence or guilt throughout the movie. Many concepts of social psychology including conformity, anger displacement, and stereotypes are used in the struggle between these men to reach a verdict.
Conformity is the tendency for people to go along with a group s opinion despite what they really feel, just to fit in or be liked. In many cases, conformity is increased when a member of a group feels inferior to fellow peers in the group. In the initial hand count, all men except for one vote guilty. During this voting process it becomes clear that the men who are unsure of what they really feel will go along with the majority without any apparent reason. In the movie the jury decides to take an initial vote to see where everyone stands on the verdict before they start discussing their decision. Some men are very out-spoken about their opinion on the case and make others feel like they will be stupid to think otherwise. As the controversy continues, the one man who voted innocent proceeds to disprove the evidence and make the defendant in the case appear innocent. Every piece of evidence he disproves seems to ensure him a new supporter for a verdict of innocent. This one man is so persuasive in his argument that he makes his opponents appear naive. As the momentum now switches to his side, conformity again becomes evident as people who appear to be undecided now vote innocent. Conformity is obvious when the people were not able to explain their reasons for voting the way they do. The most common reason given is “because I think so.” They never use concrete evidence to advocate their choice, but rather allow themselves to be swayed by the majority.
Anger Displacement is comes into play through the main antagonist in the movie. This man continually uses the boy s background and age as a reason for his guilt. He makes the boy sound like a mass murderer and a detriment to society. This man ends up spilling his guts in an emotional outrage. It turns out that he had once gotten into a heated argument with his son where he had gotten out of control. His son left him and has never talked to him since. The man is not oblivious about his guilt over that incident , but it seems he is displacing his anger towards the defendant who reminds him of his son. He seeks his revenge vicariously on the young defendant by trying to convince the jury to vote guilty. He is convinced of the boy s innocence but will not give in to the group because of his pride. Finally he gives in to his heart and in an outrage tears up the picture of his runaway son. He uses anger displacement as an unconscious defense mechanism for his own inner struggle with his parenting skills.
Another relation to psychology illustrated in the movie is the use of stereotypes. Many different stereotypes are evident, but the most important stereotype is that of the defendant. There is a bias against the boy from the start. He is a young boy who grew up being abused by his father in an impoverished home. He lives a life of poverty and struggle against the physical torment of his father. At first sight of the boy many automatically think he is just a juvenile delinquent who is out on the street and wouldn t think twice about killing his father. Other jurors use the boy s abuse as an explanation for why he would go after his father. Their reason is that the boy was so accustomed to physical violence that it would be like second nature to him to use violence in defense against his father. There is also the well known teenager stereotype where adults believe teens are just impulsive and do not have sane decision making skills in a pressing situation. These negative stereotypes are manipulated by both sides, using the child abuse both as a motive and as a scapegoat for the defendant s actions.
Psychological strategies prove to play a big role in the outcome of the verdict. Some strategies such as stereotyping were overcome by the jurors, but conformity allowed for the final unanimous decision. Many other concepts of social psychology including in-group bias of the wealthier men against the lower class of the boy play a smaller role in the dispute. Conformity, anger displacement, and stereotypes are used in the struggle between these men to reach a final verdict of innocence despite the initial eleven to one vote for guilty.