12 Angry Men as a Case Study

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Minority Matters: 12 Angry Men as a Case Study of a Successful Negotiation against the Odds Eirini Flouri and Yiannis Fitsakis

In his famous book, Social Influence and Social Change, celebrated social psychologist Serge Moscovici contended that minorities influence change by creating conflict. Because people wish to avoid conflict, they will often dismiss the minority position. But when the minority refuses to be dismissed by remaining committed to its position and maintaining a well-defined and coherent point of view, then the minority can make the majority reconsider its beliefs and consider the minority’s position as a viable alternative. Moscovici identified five key aspects of the minority’s influential behavior: consistency, investment, autonomy, rigidity, and fairness. In this article we analyze the negotiation process depicted in the 1957 film 12 Angry Men. This critically acclaimed film powerfully illustrates the dynamics of bargaining and the use of informal authority with a focus on the role of personality. The film illustrates how, by adopting the five behavioral strategies described by Moscovici, the minority — in this case a lone dissenting juror — is able to successfully negotiate and, against the odds, influence the overwhelming majority comprising the other eleven jurors.

Key words: negotiation, minority viewpoints, persuasion, juries, film.

Eirini Flouri is senior lecturer in psychology at the School of Psychology and Human Development, Institute of Education, University of London. Her e-mail address is e.flouri@ioe.ac.uk. Yiannis Fitsakis is senior risk manager for the Kashagan Oil and Gas Project at AGIP KCO. His e-mail address is y.fitsakis@gmail.com. 10.1111/j.1571-9979.2007.00156.x © 2007 President and Fellows of Harvard College

Negotiation Journal

October 2007 449

Minority Viewpoints and Social Change
In the late 1960s, French psychologist Serge Moscovici challenged the dominant functionalist approach to social influence, promoted largely by American social psychologists in the 1950s and 1960s, which emphasized the unidirectional flow of social influence from the majority to the minority. Moscovici argued instead that change, innovations, and new ideas are really products of the influence of the minority. In his celebrated book Social Influence and Social Change, Moscovici (1976) contended that minorities influence change by creating conflict. Because people wish to avoid conflict, they will often dismiss the minority position. But when the minority refuses to be dismissed by remaining committed to its position and by maintaining a well-defined and coherent point of view, then the minority can make the majority reconsider its beliefs and consider the minority’s position as a viable alternative (see Martin and Hewstone 2003 for a review). Moscovici identified five key aspects of the minority’s influential behavior: consistency, investment, autonomy, rigidity, and fairness. In this article, we analyze the negotiation process depicted in the 1957 film 12 Angry Men (Orion-Nova Productions), which was written by Reginald Rose and directed by Sydney Lumet. This critically acclaimed film powerfully illustrates the dynamics of bargaining and the use of informal authority with a focus on the role of personality. The film illustrates how, by adopting the five behavioral strategies Moscovici described, the minority — in this case a lone dissenting juror — is able to successfully negotiate and, against the odds, influence the overwhelming majority comprising the other eleven jurors. According to Jacques Rojot (1991) the goal of parties to a negotiation is to reach agreement, often while operating under time constraints. They do not primarily seek to destroy each other, and the chance that they will fail to reach agreement is always present to some degree. Although the plot of 12 Angry Men encompasses each element of Rojot’s definition of negotiation, it does not exhibit many of the criteria typically present in “one-off”...
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