Essay Example on The Role of Cognitive Bias in 12 Angry Men 1957








In the 1957 version of the film 12 Angry Men the real story is the one behind the story of jurors deliberating the fate of a teenage accused of murdering his father It is a story about cognitive biases and how they affect people's ability to reason rationally evaluate facts objectively and at times even causing people's memories of events to get blurred A cognitive bias is a subconscious inherent flaw in one's thinking or reasoning that prevents them from accurately perceiving reality Cognitive biases are usually created when someone is unwilling or unable to let go of their beliefs or preferences resulting in skewed truths and cloudy thinking Some of the kinds of cognitive biases include belief or confirmation bias false consensus effect bandwagon effect in group bias obedience to authority and overconfidence effect In the following essay I will introduce and define these cognitive biases and provide examples from 12 Angry Men illustrating these biases in action A belief or confirmation bias occurs when someone is swayed by an argument or premise primarily because they are very much in favor of its conclusion For example Juror 3 has had a very painful and disappointing fallout with his son after seeing him walk away from a fight Vowing to make a man out of his son his last interaction with him was two years ago when his son punched him and walked out

The personal situation has created an automatic distrust of young people in Juror 3 s mind a belief bias In group bias which we discuss later is also present for this situation as Juror 3 views the entire group young people as being the outsiders to his group the adults False consensus effects occur when we irrationally or sub rationally assume or believe that others around us think the same way we do about something Several of the jurors in 12 Angry Men seem to fit into this bias although none are explicit or overwhelming examples of this error in thinking Possible candidates are Juror 3 Juror 7 and Juror 10 each of whom can t believe that the other jurors would believe something other than the accused s guilt Another example is Juror 10 s apparent belief that the other jurors must share his bigoted views on Puerto Ricans and people from the slums After being summarily dismissed by the other jurors each of whom turn their back to him Juror 10 realizes the errors of his thinking and changes his vote to not guilty Juror 6 is a working class painter who mainly just goes along with the group without stirring up any trouble He is an example of someone experiencing the bandwagon effect Juror 7 s actions also indicate the bandwagon effect in a more narcissistic manner as he is willing to jump on the bandwagon of whichever verdict looks most likely to reached simply so he can get finished early and go to a baseball game Juror 2 a timid bank employee also shows signs of the bias but over the course of the movie he becomes aware of this thinking error and works to move past the bias When we favor people in our own group over outsiders we are engaging in in group bias Juror 10 is a notable example of this with his bigoted and racist views about the defendant a poor Puerto Rican boy from the slums of New York

Juror 10 consistently makes comments like those people or his kind at times likening the defendant to a completely different type of sub human who is incapable of being truthful or trustworthy As mentioned earlier Juror 10 is also showing signs of the false consensus effect here until finally the other jurors literally turn their backs on him Although it is not overt several of the jurors in the story subscribe to the obedience to authority bias This bias occurs when we are inclined to favor the demands commands opinions or views of those whom we judge to be an authority Almost all the jurors at one time or another show signs of obedience to authority especially when referring to testimony from police officers or statements made by the attorneys and judge in the case To some extent Juror 1 exhibits this in that he views himself as the authority he is the foreman of the jury and becomes extremely agitated when his authority is questioned Overconfidence effect occurs when one believes themselves to be better than average Juror 12 an advertising executive is probably the closest example of this bias in the film He is a definite charmer often throwing out advertising buzzwords and stories and unintentionally blocking out the deliberation process by doodling on his pad Juror 3 could also be experiencing the overconfidence effect as evidenced by his dismay that any of the other jurors could challenge his conclusions on the guilt or innocence of the defendant

Henry Fonda's character Juror 8 whether consciously or subconsciously recognizes the cognitive biases present in the jury deliberation room and is able to overcome them by presenting evidence of more rational and logical ideas regarding the trial evidence As pointed out by Dr Damico in his lecture 3 video one of the ways we can prevent cognitive biases is by learning as much as we can about them That way we can more quickly recognize them when they occur and stop them in their tracks 12 Angry Men does a good job of showing the growth and development in each of the jurors after realizing their own biases and working through them to reach a more rational logical verdict of not guilty

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