Group Decision-Making, Leadership, Influence and Power: Illustrations from the Film “12 Angry Men”

Topics: Decision making, Jury, Verdict Pages: 5 (1694 words) Published: December 27, 2009
The film “12 Angry Men (1957)” present a diverse group of twelve American jurors brought together to decide the guilt or innocence of a teenaged defendant in a seemingly open-and-shut murder trial case. The film illustrates the advantages and disadvantages of group decision-making, group developmental stages, leadership personality and models, social influence tactics and outcomes, and the bases of social power.

The following advantages of group decision-making were demonstrated in this approximately 90 min black-and-white 1957 film: First is diversity. A pool of varied cultural backgrounds, age groups etc, and different life experiences is a great strength of a group in decision-making. Second is enhanced memory of facts. The combine memory of a number of people is certainly better than that of an individual, and is tremendously advantageous in group decision-making. This was well demonstrated throughout the film in both the argument for and against guilty verdict, culminating in a fair fact-based decision of a “not guilty” verdict. A third and very important advantage is reduced influence of prejudice on final decision. In group decision-making, individual biases can be recognized, challenged and eliminated as demonstrated by the film. Fourthly, another advantage of group decision-making that was shown by this film is the fact that a more creative and innovative solutions to problems could emerge from group deliberations than would in an individual decision making process. Fifthly, there is a collective understanding in group decision-making. The members together reach a decision after deliberation and discussions, so that everyone understand better how and why the decision and what action to be followed. For instance, the film ended without the foreman or anyone actually announcing what verdict was to be taken to the judge. It was obvious to every member.

A major disadvantage of group decision-making that was very obvious from the “12 angry men” is that it requires more time to reach a decision. Another is groupthink. Groupthink is an undesirable behavior in group decision-making whereby members strive for unanimity of decision without accurate assessment of required information to reach decision. This problem was well illustrated at the early stage in the film when all but one of the 12 jurors voted “guilty”, and instead of deliberating, simply saw the guilty verdict as obvious, fair, unanimous, and the only alternative without any vulnerability to error of judgment. They thought they only needed to convince the only dissenting voice, and quickly pass on the unanimous decision required by the judge without carefully examining the facts. These are some of the typical symptoms of groupthink. Now, was the “12 angry men” jury effective at making decisions? The answer is yes, though inefficiently. They were able through long arguments, evaluation and re-evaluation of the facts under the leadership of the opposition of a verdict without deliberation, Juror #8 reached a fair and unanimous verdict.

All five stages of Tuckman’s group development theory- forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning were observed in the “12 angry men”, with the first three in a continuum. The forming stage started before the coming together in the room where they discussed and made the verdict decision. The jurors all listened to the murder case in the court and were clearly informed about their task by the judge. Though there was apparently no formal introduction of members to each other, the jurors familiarized themselves with each other in informal discussions before and well into the deliberations, and also learn more about each other and the task through formal reasoning together and arguments against each other’s position. Arguments and brainstorming with each other accelerated as the jurors became more and more familiar with each other, and alternative interpretations of the facts. This formed the storming stage....
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