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Aspects of Communication in the Movie Twelve Angry Men

Updated on May 22, 2016
Emotions run high as twelve men debate the fate of a young man.
Emotions run high as twelve men debate the fate of a young man.

The movie 12 Angry Men displays many different aspects of communication as the jurors try to decide whether or not a young man is guilty of killing his father. At first it seems that the jury has already made up their minds that the accused boy is guilty, however one juror votes not guilty, saying that they should first discuss the case. Slowly he is able to convince the others to change their vote, and by then end of the movie all twelve jurors vote not guilty. However, before reaching their conclusion, the jurors expresses numerous different aspects of communication from competition, and group thinking difficulties to leadership and eventually a true consensus.


Cooperation vs. Competition

As the discussion of the fate of the accused boy dragged on, it quickly became apparent who were the cooperative jurors and who were competitive. Most of the jurors were cooperative, even though it took a while for it to show, and in some cases a few may seem competitive at first. However, there are some competitive jurors such as juror seven who is only concerned about going to a baseball game, juror ten who is prejudice to people from the slums, and especially juror three who violently wants the accused boy to be convicted because of his own relationship with his son. This difference in cooperation and competition leads to defensive and supportive communication during the discussions. The main supportive juror is juror eight as he encourage the discussions and wants to know the other jurors’ thoughts. Other supportive jurors include juror one who just wants to do his job of being the foreman, juror two who is shy but eventually joins in, four who seems slightly defensive but overall wants to constructively contribute, five who gives insight on how the murder would have taken place, six who wants to be sure of the evidence, nine, eleven, and twelve who want to work through the case correctly. The main defensive juror is three who uses his anger about his frayed relationship with his son to cause him to violently want to convict the accused boy. Juror seven is also defensive because he only wants to get the case over so that he can go to a baseball game, and juror ten is emotional because he is intolerant to others especially from the slums. Overall, the supportive juror’s probe the defensive jurors in attempts to gain support and shift their opinions until eventually everyone agrees on the not guilty verdict.


Unsurprisingly, the most defensive juror was also the most difficult to the group. He violently defends his emotional opinion that the boy is guilty, and at one point he even threatens to kill juror eight. The other jury members at first support him, but quickly attack and probe him as they shift their views. They lost their respect for him, and therefore don’t really care to listen to what he has to say. To handle the situation, they could have tried to calm him down so that they could discuss the case on logical terms rather than emotional. Also, they could have talked about his relationship with his son at the beginning to get a better understanding about why he voted guilty.

Juror number eight became the unoffical leader very early on, and was very democratic in his leadership as he allowed the jury to vote and discuss their opinions.
Juror number eight became the unoffical leader very early on, and was very democratic in his leadership as he allowed the jury to vote and discuss their opinions.

Leadership

While trying to get the group to have a civil discussion about the case before condemning a young man to die, juror eight quickly rose as the informal leader of the group. Being the first dissenter he stood out, and by expressing his desire to have an actual conversation about the case he took charge by beginning the discussion. As he expressed his views and the group debated he began to gain supporters, however some jurors questioned why he is in charge. However he was still able to efficiently lead the group’s discussions and was not dictatorial, therefore he proved to be an effective leader with minimal conflict. He was a democratic leader as he participated in the debate but also left most decisions to a vote of the other members of the group. A perfect example of this is at the beginning of the movie when they acknowledge that they are probably a hung jury, but he decides to have an anonymous paper vote, and if everyone again votes guilty he will go with them. This shows that he values the input of the members and he even goes around the table so that everyone has a chance to explain their vote.


The jurors begin to work together as they do various experiments to question evidence, such as how fast an old man who recently had a stroke could walk.
The jurors begin to work together as they do various experiments to question evidence, such as how fast an old man who recently had a stroke could walk.

Working Together

The jury acts as a team by when they do a walking exercise to see if the old man was able to walk to the door to see the kid run away. They show potency by believing their experiment will prove their idea and, and they all contribute to experiment of creating a course and timing how long it would take to walk through it. They work together in the experiment because they know that the life of the accused boy is in their hands, yet they still all have their autonomy because they get to express their own opinion on the vote. The team realize that the judge has given them the choice of how the case will be settled; allowing a young man to live or die.

In the beginning they only had so much information from what they heard from the trail to make their choice on what to do with the boy. With all the statements the jury heard, they never once heard the boy to tell his side of the story so they automatically took side of the prosecution. The limited information that was given to them came in to question when they began doing the experiments with the knife, titles of the movies, and the old man walking. Originally the group fails to achieve a true consensus because juror number 12 can’t live with condemning a person without talking about it. They try to achieve a true consensus by working together to convince him that the boy is guilty, but at the end they work together and discover that the boy is innocent. They eventually achieve true consensus when they all agree that the boy is innocent and they feel like they have accomplish the truth about the case.


Standing Up

The jury showed a perfect example of group think, which is when a group makes decisions by discouraging creativity and individual responsibility, especially in the beginning when they almost decided that the boy was guilty without any discussion. Juror eight was the devil’s advocate because he questioned the group thinking in order to make them actually discuss the case before they gave the verdict. Without juror number eight the rest of the men would have happily sentenced the boy to death and when on with their day. The film demonstrates a perfect example of group interactions and communications, and how one lone person can stand against an entire group for what is right.

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