Increasingly Common Nature Of Group Communications Politics Essay
Nowadays, it is increasingly common for us to engage in group communications, be it as students, employees, teachers, or even employers. It is also inevitable that during these daily social interactions we encounter disputes or disagreements between members of the group or even develop feelings of dislike for each other amidst discussions. Interestingly, the movie 12 Angry Men successfully depicted the possible challenges that we may face when interacting as a group; from social conformity to personal prejudices. These twelve men came from different backgrounds and did not know each other until they were chosen as jury members for a court trial. During the discussion of the case, many conflicts arose; especially when one juror voted the opposite of what the others expected. Nevertheless, he stood firm throughout the whole discussion and tried to convince all eleven jurors to vote otherwise.
When we want to convince others to believe what we think and change their attitudes regarding something, we often use the technique of persuasion. Time and again in this movie, juror 8; the only person who felt that the accused might not be guilty, used the central route to persuasion, appealing to the rest of the eleven jurors with rational arguments. During the process of changing their attitudes and votes, most of them engaged in high elaboration where they cautiously evaluated the contents of the persuasive message presented by juror 8 in order to understand it further. Central route to persuasion was shown to be an effective method and the eleven men slowly generated thoughts that were coherent with juror 8’s stand, as he consistently produced logical arguments that showed loopholes and ambiguities in the evidences. As a result of this, their attitudes towards the case changed and juror 8 managed to turn the tables around.
However, it had not been an easy task for juror 8 to convince the eleven men, because they were all in a negative mood. As the title of the movie suggests, these were twelve angry men in their attempt to decide the verdict of the case but half of the time, there seemed to be no progress. The high temperature that day increased their tendencies to be aggressive, resulting in them feeling fouled and made them even more difficult to convince. Almost all of them were angry with the lone dissenter and were initially reluctant to let juror 8 explain the reasons behind his vote. When juror 8 wanted to discuss the case before deciding the fate of the boy, he was cut off by juror 7, “But what is there to talk about? Eleven men here think he is guilty and no one will think about it twice except you”, indicating their reluctance to look into the case further. Under the influence of their negative mood, they were also less likely to be persuaded by poor arguments, as they critically analyze the problem in an attempt to solve it and adopting the central route when processing information. Hence, the use of strong arguments and concrete evidence was a much more effective method in persuading them.
Finally, juror 8 also appealed to the other men using two-sided messages, by acknowledging both sides of the arguments whilst explaining and it made his arguments more convincing. Considering both sides of the arguments also suggested that he was an open-minded, just and fair person. And by refuting the opposing views with elaboration and concrete evidence, he won over the votes of all eleven men.
If persuasion was not used, these men will most likely conform to the majority in order to ease their perceived group pressure. In the beginning of the movie, all twelve jurors decided to vote for the very first time before going through any form of discussion in which eleven jurors voted for guilty, leaving only one voting otherwise. However, amongst the eleven jurors, four of them, juror 5, 6, 9 and 11, reluctantly chose to put up their hands to vote for guilty after seeing more than half of them voting the same. They conformed to the majority by copying what the other members did and believe, therefore, denying how they feel and eventually submit to group pressure.
Perhaps the reason why people conform to what others say could be that they respond to either normative or informational pressure. In the movie, most of them were under informational influence, where they were persuaded only by facts presented to them. Hence, they conformed to gain accurate information as well as to seek the truth. The only exception would probably be juror 7, who responded to the normative pressure when he said “Hey, we can all get out of here pretty quick! I don’t know about the rest of you but I happen to have tickets to the ball game tonight.” He voted guilty in the beginning, conforming to the majority so as to fulfill his personal gains, yet in the midst of the heated arguments, he decided to change his vote just as the minority view began to influence more of them “I don’t know about the rest of them, but I’m getting a little tired with this yackety-yakking back and forth. It’s getting us nowhere. So I guess I’ll have to break it up. I’m changing my vote to not guilty.” Nonetheless, he was not able to state a valid reason behind his change of vote when questioned by juror 3 and 11. The answers he gave did not show that he was convinced by the argument; instead, it only made him seemed like he was trying to get it over and done with as quickly as he could. As for juror 12, the impression he created was that he always had the need to seek for verification. Even as he suggested an idea, he was so unsure of himself that he wanted to take back what he had pointed out earlier. Later, as he tried to explain the reason for his change of vote, juror 3 intimidated him by raising his voice, causing him to change his vote back to guilty. It appeared that juror 12’s desire was to avoid punishment and to fit in with the rest of the group; consequently, he kept changing his vote with the tendency to please others as a result of responding to normative pressure.
During the first call for voting, juror 2 did not immediately put up his hand to vote for guilty. He raised his hands only after looking to those who appeared confident with their judgments. Once he was told to argue for the majority, he began to stutter more frequently in his speech, which was an obvious sign that he was not confident in what he had chosen. Besides that, group conformity can also be reduced when people are involved in giving private responses; such as stating their view points on a piece of paper where their answers cannot be judged by others. Thus, when juror 8 suggested using anonymous voting the second time around, one of the eleven jurors who voted guilty, changed his vote. One reason could be that he was not affected by any potential disapproval from the group, which reduced his pressure to conform. Voting by ballot ensured anonymity for the deviator, giving juror 9 a fair opportunity and courage to voice his thoughts. Also, if all of their votes remained in favor of guilty during the second round of voting, juror 8 would have to change his vote and that decision would be final, sending the accused off to die. Since it was the last chance to defend the accused, juror 9 became braver in stating his view.
This movie also showed how minority can influence majority especially when they are confident and consistent in presenting their points to the majority. Although being the only dissenter was very difficult, juror 8 insisted on voting for acquittal as he did not want to make any hasty decisions especially when he had doubts about the case. From the very beginning, juror 8 admitted that he was unsure if the accused was truly innocent but that did not stop him from presenting his arguments confidently and consistently reminding the rest of the jurors that they should not send a boy to die without absolute accuracy about the evidences presented to them. As the storyline progressed, juror 8 slowly but successfully influenced the majority with his views. Furthermore, juror 8 had his strong view about the case, while the others showed minority slowness effect as they gradually expressed their minority stance. They also expressed their views less quickly than people who held the majority opinion. Since the decisions that they were making were more complex and could result in a serious outcome, the points stated by the minorities could readily influence the majority, especially when the points are logical.
Initially, when juror 8 voted for not guilty, most of them were not satisfied with his decision, especially juror 7 and 10. “Let’s take an hour,” said juror 8, hoping to extend the time for discussion. “Great! I heard a pretty good story last night…” said juror 10, wanting to deviate from the topic of their discussion and waste the time. In another scene, where juror 8 tried to clarify his uncertainty about specific evidence, he was distracted by juror 3 and 12 playing a game of tic-tac-toe, completely ignoring what he had to say. All these were signs of the majority rejecting the non-conformist. Because juror 8 was the minority in expressing his dissenting views, he was treated more harshly. The majority attempted to reduce communication with juror 8 by disregarding what he had to say and showed no respect for him. Juror 8 was ostracized because he was seen as a non-conformist and therefore, denied the chance to speak.
Despite the power of social influence, there were also factors that reduced conformity. For instance, once juror 9; who reluctantly put up his hand for guilty during the first round of voting received social support from juror 8, he immediately became more courageous in voicing out his opinion. It is clearly seen that social support reduces conformity by diminishing the group’s normative influence. Originally, all the eleven other jurors were selfish and each had only themselves in mind, either wanting to get it over and done with, or simply could not be bothered to think twice about the case. However, as more and more jurors changed their votes, their social support also increased, as a result, the amount of people who voiced out their opinions increased as well.
When the movie first started with the judge telling the jurors to return with a unanimous verdict for the case, the explicit instruction to use the unanimity rule for decision making allowed a more thorough discussion, especially when the issue concerned the death of a human. These twelve men were strangers who came together with only one goal in mind, which was to produce a unanimous verdict for the case. Because these gentlemen came from all walks of life and different backgrounds, they were diverse members of the group, thus, are dissimilar and do not form a cohesive group. Due to the lack of cohesiveness as a group, they experienced a greater amount of conflict over decision making especially when a unanimous decision is required but cannot be reached.
However, it was also due to this diversity that the group was able to consider more aspects of the case when judging, and provide a more accurate decision. Hence, the chances of the eleven men changing their votes became more likely. As all of them came from a diverse background, their different experiences in life in turn affected the way they perceived the case. For instance, juror 5 who grew up in slums, was able to point out how a switchblade is normally used, eliminating the idea that the accused stabbed his father down and inward. Another example would be juror 9 who was a meticulous man. His habit of paying attention to minor details about others helped convince juror 4 into voting not guilty. The mentioning of their individual doubts raised issues about the accuracy of the testimonies given, allowing juror 8 to refute and point out the presence of discrepancies and provided the opportunity for him to change the minds of the rest.
Additionally, the rest of the eleven jurors also tried to socialize juror 8 into changing his opinion and becoming one of them when they took turns in stating their reasons for voting guilty. The scene where juror 1 said to juror 8, “You can just tell us what you’re thinking and we’ll be able to tell you where you’re mixed up” and another scene where juror 12 said, “It seems to me that it is up to the group of us to convince this gentleman that he’s wrong and we’re right”, showed that the group attempted to shape juror 8’s behavior and thinking in order to reach their goal of a unanimous verdict.
More often than not, there are bound to be misunderstandings when we are in a group. With our stereotypical views, we have the tendency to judge others based on what we think we know about them. But as an outgroup to the stereotyped, we may not fully understand them or the reasons behind what they do, and sometimes, this may lead to serious consequences. Stereotype and prejudice was very well enacted in this movie. “Listen, I’ve lived among them all my life. You can’t believe a word they say. You know that. I mean, they are born liars” said juror 10, showing clear signs of stereotypical attitude towards people who live or grow up in the slums. As one who had never lived in the slums before, juror 10 had most probably established this particular stereotype about the outgroup members; in this case, people who lived in the slums, by learning from others around him. This stereotypical view was also further maintained through regular social interaction amongst those who had similar perceptions.
Believing the accused to be a liar merely because he was born and raised in the slums, juror 10’s attitude towards him was that of disgust and contempt, calling him and those who are just like him liars as well as violent. When juror 4 remarked casually, “He was born in the slums. Slums are breeding grounds for criminals. I know it and so do you. There’s no secret that children from slum backgrounds are potential menaces to society” he had indirectly helped maintain juror 10’s negative view about the defendant. Due to the presence of this negative stereotype, juror 10 also openly suggested that the accused deserved an inferior status, prejudicing against him. He too, assumed that they are all like that by nature, even to the extent of referring to them as ‘what’ which indicated his belief that they are not worthy of being regarded as human beings when he said “You’re not going to tell me that we’re supposed to believe this kid, knowing what he is” to everyone else in the room. Ultimately, this negative stereotype predetermined his verdict of the case from the very beginning, making him ignore the facts or doubts brought up by others in spite of them being logical arguments.
Another scene that presented the idea of prejudice was an unforgettable one. “Here’s what I think, and I have no personal feelings about this. I just want to talk about facts”. When juror 3 said those words for the very first time, it seemed that he was one who would listen to the facts brought up during the discussion. However, the movie progressed to reveal his prejudice towards the accused due to his bad relationship with his son, making him more susceptible to emotional influences when judging the case. Although it was clear that he had desperately wanted to find the accused guilty, juror 3 was not consciously aware of his attitude in which he indirectly implied that the accused was deserving of an inferior status, hence should be found guilty.
Being implicitly prejudiced, juror 3 unconsciously transferred his negative feelings for his son towards the accused while at the same time, convincing himself that he only believed the facts and was not affected by any personal emotions that he might have felt. “Ever since you walked into this room, you’ve been acting like a self-appointed public avenger. You want to see this boy die because you personally want it, not because of the facts” juror 8 raised his voice to juror 3, making him see that his judgment had been clouded by his personal feelings the whole time. In fact, several times throughout the movie, juror 3 was portrayed to be in a state of denial, constantly dismissing the fact that deep down, he knew very well that his arguments were weak and the doubts presented by the rest of them were all actually reasonable. Yet, he refused to change his vote and it was not until the end of the movie, when he was forced to realize his prejudiced view after seeing the photograph of him and his son, that he finally changed his vote to not guilty.
In our everyday lives, conflicts are unavoidable especially when we engage in social interactions. However, it is our choice to allow group diversity to hinder the group’s progress or to overcome the obstacles faced as a group. In the case of this movie, juror 8 chose the latter and managed to change the minds of the other jurors through the use of persuasion, winning over the acquittal of the accused. No matter how difficult it may be for us to express our views, we should not succumb to the pressure of being seen as a nonconformist, as we may never get a chance to be heard or prove ourselves right. Hence, we should not be afraid to voice our opinions and to argue for our stand. And if we happen to be on the disadvantaged end, we should not give up but instead, strive for what we believe is right.
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