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12 Angry Men (1957) is a gripping and an engrossing examination of 12 jurors who are deciding the fate of a young Puerto Rican boy in a murder trial. It is phenomenal that a movie with a running time of just 96 minutes and shot in just one room could be so impactful and so intellectually stimulating that it could be a source of immense learning for generations to come in the field of psychology, social psychology, Organizational Behavior anddecision making.
In this paper, we will be exploring 3 wide dimensions/theories in the field of OB and their application in the movie by citing specific examples from the film. We will start off by exploring the phenomenon of Perception and Individual Decision Making where we would be exploring the decision making process at an individual level, explaining the underlying theories and biases involved in individual decision making and try to map those to specific instances in the film. This will be followed by a discussion on the phenomenon of Group Behavior with particular emphasis on group formation, group decision making and Groupthink. Finally, we will explore how Personality influences the decision making environment.

Perception and Individual Decision Making

One of the theories that were seen at play was Attribution Theory. Attribution theory is a phenomenon that is characterized by individuals observing behavior followed by an attempt to gauge whether the event was externally or internally caused where internal causes under the person’s control while external causes are not. For example, the architect made more external attributions to the boy’s behavior, citing that the boy had been slapped around all his life and was of the view that external attributions could not provoke something as grave as murder. On the contrary, the angry juror who ran the messenger service and was a distraught father made internal attributions about the boy’s behavior, reflecting that kids these days don’t respect their adults and have lost their sense of morality. Furthermore, the old loud mouthed bigot stubbornly advocated a guilty verdict just because the young boy was from a slum and hence his reasoning that all slum kids are inherently rotten; a classic case of stereotyping whereby judgments are made about the person just because he belongs to a particular group.

               One of the most startling observations in the film was the manifestation of fundamental attribution error. Fundamental attribution error refers to the tendency to underestimate the influence of external factors and overestimate the influence of internal factors when making judgments about the behavior of others. In simple words, we blame people first, not the situation. For example, the distraught father cited the boy’s shout “I’m gonna kill ya” as an indication of the boy’s murderous rage. However, when he was enticed by the architect later in a discussion after being called a sadist, he too shouts, “I’m gonna kill ya” but he does not really mean it. It was just the situation that elicited such a response. Similarly, the stock broker assumed that the boy’s inability to recall the movies he went to meant that he was lying and not that he may have not been able to recall it due to the situation, trauma and mental stress. The realization came, when he himself was not able to recall the movies he went to just a few days back even when he was not under any stress.

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