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Dmitry Shargorodsky

Positions taken based on Prejudices in the Twelve Angry Men

The movie Twelve Angry Men serves as an excellent example of small group development, in the midst of a battle for the truth against personal prejudices. The way the characters fall into their specific role is a very important part in their communication, as well as in the success of the overall negotiation. Initially because of his functional role the foreman is titled by the rest of the group as the leader. However, because of his lack of innovation and his need for approval his leadership quickly begins to dissolve.

Two leaders emerge one being Henry Fonda the other is referred to as the loud mouth. Fonda s Character plays many roles, but foremost he opens the discussion by playing the Devils advocate. While others are all convinced the boy is guilty Fonda s Character truly doesn t know. Instead of pressing his opinion he uses his democratic style to focus the rest on what is truly important; he does so by constantly reminding the group they must acquit if they have any reasonable doubt. This is a perfect example of always keeping the goal in mind while negotiating. In addition, Fonda, no matter how emotional the discussion got always kept calm and had his task in mind; instead of just going along with the crowd and accepting the evidence as it was presented, he challenged everything. He acted as initiator-contributor by suggesting different possible scenarios for the way that the crime was committed and how the witnesses testimonies could be flawed. This type of a brainstorming became very effective for finding the truth, and as a result portrayed Fonda as a very effective leader.

The loud mouth on the other hand is a very different type of a leader, being an autocratic leader he is loud and inconsiderate, from the start it s obvious that he has motives that steams from his fight with his son. As the movie progresses he become more and more loud at times becoming belligerent and totally losing all effect. Due to his hostile style of negotiation and his inability to see beyond his personal crusade, the loud mouth finds himself alone. Alternatively, Henry Fonda s character is able to persuade everyone because of his excellent communication skills and his commitment to the task at hand.

The loud mouth and the man with the cold depict the disruptive and self-centered roles. The man with the cold constantly interrupts the others while they are speaking and the loud mouth shouts throughout the entire movie, as if by being the loudest he will convince them he is right. They fight the rest of the jurors every step of the way and won t accept the fact even if that much of the evidence has been made worthless. Right up until the end the loud mouth is still rehashing disqualified evidence. At the same time those individuals who are exhibiting task roles are fighting against them with a democratic style trying to reach a fair and unbiased conclusion.

It s very obvious that most of the battle spent by Henry Fonda was fighting the prejudices of the other jurors. They all fell into positions, and argued based on them rather then discussing their individual interests. Their interests should have been the same; make a decision based on facts, however they became blind to the facts when their original position was refuted. This is most obvious in the case of the sports fan, who didn t care about the case at all, and only took position of guilt then innocence based on his personal comfort of having to get to the game.

Several jurors also correlated the fact that the boy was from a bad neighborhood with his being guilty. The man with the cold put a great deal of effort into trying to convince the others that the boy is guilty because all children with his background are no good. The loud mouth took it a step further and started ranting about the rotten kids these days, the idea coming from his personal vendetta. This confirmation bias made it very difficult to convince them otherwise.

The battle against positions taken by most jurors because of their prejudices is the battle that Fonda s fights to attain the truth. Using his skills and his role as a leader he is able to bring out the facts; he then forces the rest of the jurors to focus not on positions but on the facts that are presented. Fonda only succeeds when all the prejudicial positions have been replaced by facts. This is the core idea, and I find it very important because it was portrayed very successfully through the duration of the movie.


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