12 Angry Men: Story 2

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In the movie 12 Angry Men, (1957), twelve white men from different socioeconomic backgrounds with diverse personal prejudices, beliefs and personalities are brought together in a small jury room on a hot summer day. The jurors are forced to debate evidence presented in a case and carry out the task of deliberating on the guilt or innocence of a teenager accused of killing his father with a switchblade. This film dramatically illustrates how a group dynamic can influence what should be its members’ fair decision-making process. The members of the jury group must come to a unanimous and just verdict. After the group adjourns into the jury room to deliberate, a vote is taken. At this point the other group members find out that one juror, played by Henry Fonda, (Juror 8) thinks that the accused teenager is not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. As a result, conflicts arise as each juror’s unique understanding of the case along with his biases and stereotypes are revealed.

The purpose of this paper is to analyze the group’s development and member roles as they evolve from a mostly “guilty” decision at the start of deliberations to a unanimously “not guilty” decision at the close of the movie. The dynamics of this jury’s verdict as the movie unfolds will be analyzed according to Tuckman’s theory, Bion’s theory of basic assumptions and Yalom’s and Leczec’s group norms, process and content. Three theories will be used because one model alone would not sufficiently explain the complex interactions and behaviors displayed by the jury members as they commence work in a group. Group Role Development

In examining a group of any kind, it is important to examine the roles that form within that group. In 12 Angry Men, clear roles develop among the different jurors. Roles are specialized functions that serve to manage emotions and complete the work task (Rutan,Stone &Shay,2007). Some of the functional roles taken up by the jurors in the film include information-seeker, tension-releaser, feeling-expressor, socializer/extrovert, intellectualizer, superior and aggressor (McRae&Short,2010). The main roles in the film revolve around the dissenter, juror 8 (Fonda) who ultimately fills the role of group leader, his followers (Jurors 2,5,6,9 and11 who are perceptive), the rebel Juror 3 and his followers, Juror 1,4,7 and 10 who are weak and conciliatory and the mediators (alternating Jurors7, 11 and 2)(McRae&Short,2010). These roles emerge as the group struggles with its task and the need to defend against and manage their anxiety (McRae&Short,2010). Each group member responds to Fonda’s role as leader differently: some reject him, others identify with him, some compete with him and yet other jurors empathize with him. In this scenario, the leadership role is actually a function and not a permanent position (Rutan,Stone &Shay,2007). Over the course of the movie, as the jurors are reluctantly forced to re-examine their thoughts and feelings about the case, many different, temporary leaders emerge. Fonda is able to secure his position in the group as a powerful leader because he is able to influence and gain strong support from the other members who follow him until ultimately, they are all able to see the evidence for themselves. Fonda represents the epitome of an effective leader. He is tall, handsome, confident, calm, well spoken, logical, caring, patient and brave (McRae & Short,2010). But, most importantly, his devoted orientation to the task creates doubt in his fellow jurors, which enables him to persuade the other jurors to change their original verdicts of guilty to not guilty after a thorough, objective examination of the details of the case (McRae&Short,2010). Tuckman’s Theory of Group Development

Bruce Tuckman’s model of group development offers a five-step model of how groups form, develop and change over time. According to Tuckman, these stages occur in order and are identified as norming, storming, forming, performing...
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