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12 Angry Men The Film Essay

In reviewing the film 12 Angry Men, I have identified many types of influence tactics being utilized by the jurors. The five tactics that I believe were most used in this film were; reason or rational persuasion, coalition building, ingratiation, inspiration and pressure. Although there were several jurors throughout the film who may have demonstrated similar tactics at various times, it is my opinion that the majority of the influencing throughout the deliberation came from juror #8. I do believe there were other jurors that attempted to influence with the same amount of tenacity, however, their tactics were less affective as proven by the outcome of the deliberation and verdict decided by the jury.

As the jury begins their deliberation very early on in the film, a discussion takes place where it becomes apparent some of the jurors are speaking as though it will be a quick one which will result in a guilty verdict. When the first vote takes place and juror #8 is the only one to vote “not guilty”, he begins to demonstrate some of the influence tactics discussed above. I believe that juror #8 himself demonstrated reasoning, coalition building, ingratiation and inspiration tactics. He reminded the other jurors that he was not necessarily saying that the boy was not guilty, however, he did not believe the evidence was strong enough to take away reasonable doubt that possibly the boy didn’t commit the crime. He insisted that they all review the evidence and discuss it in more detail. He was reasoning with the other jurors and stating a fact about what they should be basing their vote on. It is clear that juror #8 was exhibiting effective rational persuasion by presenting factual information, making very clear, specific, and relevant points. Reasoning is the most commonly used influence tactic in general as well as the most commonly used tactic in this film.

Once juror #8 was able to convince a few of the other jurors to also question the evidence, they started to build a coalition where multiple individuals were now also challenging the guilty verdict and some of the evidence. This may not have necessarily been a conscience decision to form a coalition, as one may see with a typical example such as a union, however, the simple fact that there were now several individuals all aligned on a decision seemed to be enough to allow others to explore additional scenarios and feel comfortable questioning the evidence.

There were also times in the film where juror #8 gave credit to another juror and made him feel like their opinion really mattered. When juror #8 told juror #9 that he had a right to be heard and asked that he explain why he thought the old man would be lying is an example of the ingratiation influence tactic. Although this wasn’t outright flattery as a more pointed example of ingratiation might be, telling someone their voice counts is enough to boost their self-esteem and could result in influencing their decision to side with the person using the ingratiation tactic.

Lastly, it seemed apparent that most of the jurors in that room whether they were at a point where they agreed with the not guilty verdict or not, seemed somewhat inspired by juror #8’s willingness to stand alone for what he believed was the right thing to do. Taking a lone stance in the beginning of this deliberation and continuing to question the evidence to induce discussion is something that I believe the other jurors admired. Throughout the film, juror #8 continues to demonstrate leadership characteristics by challenging the status quo and never losing control of his emotions. He never seemed to be taking a stance for any personal reasons, he never demonstrated any prejudice and he came across very authentic. This influence tactic, although not intentional, can be described as inspiration.

Juror #3 is the loudest and most adamant juror in favor of a guilty verdict along with juror #10. Juror #3 grows increasingly angry throughout the film as other jurors begin to change their vote from guilty to not guilty. Throughout the film he can be seen using the pressure influence tactic, attempting to strong-arm, threaten and intimidate the others into agreeing with him. He used an aggressive tone and an unnecessary high volume when speaking to the group. This type of tactic may work well in environments such as military basic training, along with a legitimacy tactic, but not amongst peers or in situations where the person doing the pressuring does not possess any real authority or pose any real threat to the group. There were no real consequences for the other jurors to be forced to succumb to juror #3’s pressure tactics.

At one point in the discussion, the foreman states, ‘All of this fighting is getting us nowhere’. It is my opinion that this statement couldn’t be further from the truth. For juror #8 to take a jury of 11 men believing the boy is guilty to having every one of those 11 men eventually change their decision based on the discussion he ignited shows that all of the ‘fighting’ or discussion was very necessary and actually did result in a different outcome because of the issues that were brought out during the conflict. In most cases where the stakes are high, discussions are necessary to ensuring that all of the facts are laid out.

To demonstrate specific examples of where discussion was impactful to the deliberation, a few key scenes can be sited. One of the first scenes where the audience can see this shown is when juror #8 asks to see the knife that killed the man. During the trial it was stated that this was a rare switchblade and when juror #8 produces a very similar knife that he picked up from a store in the same neighborhood as the father and son, doubt is now starting to settle in with some of the other jurors which then causes them to reconsider their position. Other key scenes where their disagreements resulted in a robust discussion that ultimately swayed juror’s decisions include a re-enactment of the old man getting out of bed to witness the boy running out of the apartment.

Without a full on debate, they would have never figured out that this was actually impossible to do in the 15 seconds that the old man said it took. In another scene the jury also discussed the old woman’s testimony that she saw the murder take place through the el train. If they had not gone through this in detail and figured out that she actually wore glasses and couldn’t have seen the assailant very clearly, some jurors would have still been convinced that the only eye witness did in fact see the boy murder his father. These extremely important details were discovered through a robust discussion or conflict and were absolutely pertinent in the ultimate decision to acquit the boy in the murder.

Works Cited

Edrogen, T. B. (2013). Organizational Behvavior v1.1. Flatworld. Rose, R. (Director). (1957). 12 Angry Men [Motion Picture].


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