12 Angry Men

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Date Submitted: 10/12/2014 08:26 AM

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I recently watched the Henry Fonda film "Twelve Angry Men" for another class. This was a movie that I was familiar with but had never watched completely. The movie is about twelve jurors who are deliberating the fate of a teenaged boy accused of killing his father. The boy, a Puerto Rican immigrant, has a history of getting into trouble and a poor alibi. There are two eyewitnesses who saw and heard the murder. It appears to be an open and shut case, and if the boy is convicted, he will be put to death.

The jurors here the evidence presented by the prosecutor and the boy's passive attorney. As they enter the jury room, all but one is convinced of his guilt in a straw vote. There were several different personalities at work; the task-oriented jury foreman, the meek business man who eventually finds his voice, the bully who was open about his prejudice, and juror number 8 who refused to vote guilty without considering all of the evidence.

From the beginning of the deliberations, it was apparent that many of the jurors had formed schemas and relied on heuristics that led them to form stereotypes of this boy. Many of them had past experiences with "those people". This type of social categorization became the basis for their votes in favor of guilty. Out-group homogeneity, or the "perception that individuals in the out-group are more similar to each other than they really are", leads the jurors to believe that "they" are all alike (Aronson, Wilson, & Akert, 2010, p. 398).

Another interesting social psychological occurrence was the eye-witness testimony. A woman who wore glasses testified that she saw the murder from across a train track while a train was travelling in between her window and the window of the murdered man. Aronson et al. (2010) state that eyewitness testimony holds a great deal of significance within the legal system (p. 474). Jurors, however, overestimate the accuracy of eyewitnesses (Aronson et al., 2010, p. 475). People tend to remember...