Running Head: BLOCKBUSTER FILM’S AND PSYCHOLOGICAL CONCEPTS
The Presence of Psychology: How a Blockbuster Film
Incorporated Psychological Concepts
University of Houston
For this project I chose to analyze a Blockbuster Film for psychological concepts. By watching 12 Angry Men my goal was to examine the meaning behind particular scenes and how they could portray a social psychology concept. I wondered if it was possible that the writers and film makers knew they were using these concepts in their film and how it would affect their viewers. 12 Angry Men is a crime drama about a murder trial in which there is one juror who resists placing a guilty verdict on a young boy, because he is not without doubt. The film proceeds with the majority trying to persuade this juror, juror number eight, to change his verdict, but the tables turn and one by one he wins the rest of the men onto his side. I wanted to choose scenes that resonated with me, I first found a clip of one juror who blatantly justifies his verdict of guilty based on the race of the young boy. The second clip depicts the first member of the jury to be swayed to juror number eights side, with changing his guilty plea to not guilty. Both of these scenes possess tremendous power and profound use of prejudice and minority influence.
My main expectation was to view the film and find only a short scene that could pertain to a psychological concept. I thought at most, I would learn that psychology is present in the film industry more than I notice. I really thought the project would be fairly easy and I’d be disappointed by the amount of psychology found in the film. In terms of the film I saw I expected to view the trial happening, and to extrapolate my own verdict, based on the given evidence. I mainly wanted to see if I could be persuaded away from my original belief towards the beliefs of the jury members. I wanted to treat the trial as something I was really attending, though I believed once I formed a conviction I would be steadfast in it. I expect my emotions would play a role into my beliefs, however I aim to see if I can keep an objective mindset without my emotions clouding my judgments.
Upon watching the film and finding the two scenes used for the project I found that the film 12 Angry Men had an abundance of psychological concepts, ranging from Groupthink, Prejudice, Minority Influence, and Normative Social Influence, just to name a few. Every scene in the movie had me captivated and my mind taking notes faster than I could write. Unfortunately as a viewer I was unable to actually see the trial take place, thus incapable of forming my own verdict before hearing the juries. The film went from the judge telling the jurors their duties, right to the deliberation room. A vote was cast immediately where eleven of the twelve men voted guilty. One juror stood alone with a not guilty vote as he felt he wasn’t without doubt. After the initial vote the viewer is given a preliminary run down of the evidence against the defendant. The evidence is as follows: an older downstairs neighbor heard the boy shout he’d kill his father and heard the body hit the floor. A women across the street saw the crime happen through the windows of a moving elevator train as it passed by, while she lay in bed. The crime was committed in the late evening hours, enabling the woman to see due to the bright street lights. The teenager had purchased a knife earlier in the evening, which was found with the body, though wiped of prints. It was said by the shop owners of the purchased knife that it was a unique knife, leading me to believe it couldn’t be found easily for purchase elsewhere. Lastly the teenager had gone to the movies, after he supposedly left the house after a fight with his father where he was struck in the face, however couldn’t remember the names of the features or actors in it. When he returned home, he was caught by detectives. All of the evidence lead me to believe he had to be guilty. From that point forward juror number eight, played by Henry Fonda, slowly convinced me of all of the reasons why he might not have been the one to commit the crime after all. He was able to convince each jury member, for one reason or another, slowly to change their vote from guilty to not guilty. I was exceptionally surprised at this as many of the men were irate with the initial vote and strong in their convictions of the teenager being guilty. While I was enamored with the whole process, I do not believe it is likely to have the majority overruled eventually by the minority, where then the minority became the majority and all men cast their vote as not guilty.
Psychological Concept Prejudice:
The first scene of the movie to really stand out to me featured a juror who proceeded to tell all the other jurors why the teenager was guilty, simply based off of his race. This social phenomenon is known as prejudice, when a person exhibits any kind of negative attitude or intolerance for people of a discernable group, based only on their relation to that group. (Aronson, Wilson, Akert, and Sommers, 2015). The tenth juror, as we know him, is very fervent attacker from the beginning, he immediately refers to the teenager as one of them, continues to postulate that all people of that race are liars, drunks and have violence bred in them (Thodoris Econox, 2010). As he berates the defendant for his race, the other jurors rise and proceed to face away from him, leaving him standing and feebly protesting, until he is abashed and takes a seat. This was considered a monumental moment in prejudice, even though I was unaware of why he believed those things, he truly believed the teenager had to be guilty simply because he grew up in the slums and was of a particular race. This juror believes that every person of that particular race are all lumped into one extremely negative category of vile intolerance. As the men get up, he tries to back pedal and claim that there are good things about the race, and he’d be the first one to say so. (Thodoris Econox, 2010) Not featured in the clip is where he changes his vote to not guilty later, because of the mass amount of shame he felt for being so bigoted.
Psychological Concept Minority Influence:
This particular scene has to be my favorite from the whole movie. Each of the men go around the table to tell juror number eight why they believe the defendant is guilty and try to convince him to vote with them. He then proceeds to explain why he has doubt by pulling out a knife, which is an exact replica of the knife used in the crime. Though the knife was supposed to be unique, he was able to purchase one in the same neighborhood that the boy lived in. They continue on debating for a while longer, until Henry Fonda states that in the next vote, which they do discretely, if every person still voted guilty, he would change his own vote to guilty as well. A new vote is cast, without Fonda voting, and low and behold there is a new vote of not guilty. As one can imagine, mayhem broke out, someone wants to know who changed their vote. The man who did change their vote revels himself and emanates the reasons behind it. He postulates that it’s very hard from someone to stand alone against others, and since Fonda was asking for support in his claims of being unsure on the verdict, the juror would give it to him. (Movieclips, 2015). This is the first person to change their vote, as mentioned earlier, Fonda was able to convince numerous jury members to change their vote, until some just changed it to go along with the majority. This beautiful concept is known as minority influence, the ability of a small group of people who hold a different view, thought, or belief from the larger group to persuade the majority into accepting the smaller groups beliefs, thoughts or views. (Aronson, et al, 2015) This is a very rare occurrence to happen within a jury vote however, so that is one way Blockbuster embellished this concept. It was interesting though how the original vote began as groupthink, due to the way many members of the jury looked around at how others were voting and then cast their vote accordingly. These two concepts are just scratching the surface of the abundant material found in 12 Angry Men, though I believed these were very important ones to address.
Minority influence was the main theme of 12 Angry Men, and the most compelling social influence I’ve learned about. An article written by Antonis Gardikiotis elaborates on the influence minority groups have to an overall outcome of an event, situation or problem. I found that much of his article could relate very closely to the actions taken by Henry Fonda’s character and the ensuing movement from guilty to not guilty verdicts by the other jurors. Gardikiotis expands on minority influence being present in social rights movements and even famous people, such as Darwin and Freud, because either these movements or people were standing alone against a bigger group fighting for things they believed in that wasn’t an accepted position in society. (Gardikiotis, 2011) In the film there was one particular juror who was irate the whole time, and was the last person to be persuaded to change to a not guilty vote. He seemed to be the voice of power, and was able to keep others who I believed would have voted not guilty earlier had it not been for his position, towards the side of guilty. The article goes on to explain how the minority group is in a deviant position, but with the right angle of argument can influence others to join their side. Just as Fonda was consistent with his approach on not being sure the defendant was guilty he was committed to that stance. He was also flexible in his argument because he didn’t say the defendant was not guilty or guilty, just that he wasn’t sure, whereas the majority group, namely the power position holder, was very astute in his arguments. By Fonda being more flexible in his argument he was thus able to persuade others to think of the gap between his stance and their own and take the issue of the homicide under consideration. (Gardikiotis, 2011). As the jurors talk longer about the facts and evidence of the crime, they come to see that there are a lot of discrepancies and some of what was not debatable before, had large holes, which could conclude there was doubt of whether the teenager committed the crime.
There is so much to take away from not only this project but the film 12 Angry Men. I was not only surprised by the amount of social psychological concepts there were in the movie, but how profound an impact they have on our everyday lives. While this particular movie was about a homicide and not sending a teenager to death because of doubt, it really had a significant effect on how I can be more influential for the right reasons. This film makes me want to be more like Henry Fonda’s character, that even if I have to stand alone, to do the right thing, it is sometimes necessary. If I can be consistent and flexible in my arguments of my own beliefs, while being committed to my stance, there is a chance I can persuade others to reconsider an issue at hand and potentially turn the tables. I’ve also discovered that it can be very easy to do and choose what a group is doing simply because I may not be comfortable enough with the information present and inexperienced. I know I do not want to be one of those people who raise my hand to say guilty because that is what I see other’s doing. Lastly, I have learned that even though I do what I can in the face of prejudice, being a minority race myself, there is always so much more one can do, even if it is simply turning your back on those spouting off intolerance to show you stand in solidarity with those who are being persecuted.
Aronson, E., Wilson, T.D., Akert, R.M., & Sommers, S.R. (2015) Social Psychology (9th ed.) New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall
Gardikiotis, A. (2011). Minority Influence. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 5(9), 679-693. doi:10.1111/j.1751-9004.2011.00377.x
Henry, F. & Reginald, R. (Producers), & Sidney, L. (Director). (1957). 12 Angry Men [Motion Picture]. United States: Orion-Nova Productions.
Thodoris, Econox. (2010, September 25) 12 Angry Men Great Scene. [Video File]. Retrieved From https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dzhH2hlNSfs
Movie Clips. (2015, April 23) 12 Angry Men Movie Clips-Who Changed Their Vote? [Video File]. Retrieved From https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EqDd06GW76o