Logical fallacies in 12 angry men
12 Angry Men is a trial film that narrates the story of twelve jurors as they deliberate on a case on the basis of reasonable doubt. The men must decide whether or not the defendant, a young boy, is guilty of murdering his father, and are expected to make a unanimous decision. Initially, all the jurors except one think the defendant is guilty. However, after reviewing the evidence and conducting some critical and logical reasoning, their opinion changes in a way that makes them conclude the boy is not guilty. This verdict is probably because of the various fallacies that the jurors committed. This essay analyses the various inductions, deductions and fallacies in 12 Angry Men and how the characters use them to their advantage.
The jurors make a number of deductions in the film. The first one is when some of them deduce that the defendant must have committed the murder since he is from the slums. Another deduction is seen when one of the jurors is of the opinion that the boy killed his father as revenge for being beaten up. The third example of deductive reasoning is when eleven jurors assume the boy is guilty due to the common perception that all suspects accused of committing murder have actually done it. Also, some jurors assumed that whatever the witnesses said was the truth just because they claim to have seen it happen. The fifth deduction is observed in that the jurors think the knife used in the murder was so unique to the extent that there was no other similar to it.
Attributions Utilized by the Jurors and How They Affected the Judgement of a Young Boy
External attributions for the behavior of the boy were made by Henry Fonda, a humane, justice-seeking architect. He talked a lot about the awful way they treated a boy in childhood and how this affected his behavior in the future. The main hero was slapped all the time, even for the slightest mistakes, and such an attitude left a big scar on the psyche. Such a way of thinking and perceiving the world led to the following external attributions - it was how the boy was treated when he was a kid, but not something innate about the boy’s character.
The racist guy, known as Ed Begley, put emphasis on the fact that the boy was born in a slum and hasn’t tried another life due to a pile of reasons. Ed was trying to communicate the thought that all children born in a slum were rotten, and this is something everyone inherited. Such internal attributions result in numerous guilty verdicts.
Lee J. Cobb also was the one who made a lot of internal attributions for the behavior of a boy. This angry man agreed with the idea introduced by Ed Begley that a vast majority of slum kids are rotten. Furthermore, he underlined that kids living in the modern world have a lack of morality and don’t respect adults.
Did Stereotypes Affect the Majority’s Thinking?
It should be noted that a vast majority of jurors had a stereotypical way of thinking about children from slums and those belonging to other groups. Such typical thinking led to one-sided interpretation of the provided evidence.
A Phenomenon of Groupthink or Minority Influence?
The situation we see in 12 Angry Men had numerous symptoms, which resulted in groupthink. Undoubtedly, a vast majority of the juries were confident in the morality of their decision - they decided to punish a cruel person. They had a standardized perception of people who were different and led another lifestyle. There was an illusion of unanimity and immense pressure. Self-censorship was typical for some juries because they kept silent about their opinion while others were trying to convince a group in their rightness and to push the majority to a specific decision making. Nevertheless, the minority succeeded in persuading the majority. They were able to change their opinion about the boy and his innocence. Without a doubt, it was that rare case when the few could sway the vote to Not guilty. Usually, the majority takes over, but not this time.
Factors That Helped to Sway the Majority
There were some factors that helped the minority to reach their aim and get the majority round to the minority's way of thinking.
The leader of the less popular opinion, Hendry, was always consistent, and this is what helped him in persuading the juries. He was the person who never waved or called into question his words and proofs. He has been confident in his rightness, and this was a reason which made other people rethink their position. If an individual is willing to stand up against the majority, he must be ready to point out some crucial details. Being consistent all the time can help you sway other people to your side and get success.
Avoid Being Rigid
Although it is vital to be consistent, avoiding being rigid will be an optimal solution. In other words, it is important to be open-minded and to listen to the opinion of other people. Fonda emphasized that he didn’t think the majority was wrong; he just wanted to discuss all the nuances to get to grips with the slightest details that could influence the final decision.
Fonda was a self-confident person, and he never doubted his rightness. His behavior inspired confidence in other juries who were leaning towards his position. Being self-confident is a halfway to success no matter what you are doing.
Foda was a clever player, and he used his knowledge to ensure a snowball effect. He stepped towards certain people who kept silent and seemed unsure and asked them whether they truly believed the provided evidence or they had some doubts. This ruined the illusion of unanimity and eased the pressure to be like the majority.
Fallacies in movies
A notable fallacy in 12 Angry Men is the appeal to the majority fallacy. It occurs when everyone thinks that a certain claim is true just because a majority of the people say that particular claim is true. This fallacy is seen in the film when the jurors cast their votes for the first time. While eleven of them voted for a not-guilty verdict, one voted guilty. He eventually changes his mind and votes not guilty. He explains his decision by saying that he was influenced by the fact that all his fellow jurors thought that the defendant was not guilty. The fallacy is evident in that just because most of the jurors thought of the same verdict does not mean that it is the right decision.
Another deduction evident in the film is the hasty generalization fallacy. A claim is made about a certain group of people just because its population size is considered to be too small. In 12 Angry Men, one juror was of the opinion that the defendant must have committed the murder since he hailed from an informal settlement. There is a perception that everyone living in slums is a criminal, hence the boy murdered his father since he lived there. The fallacy is evident in that just because the majority of a population possess a certain trait does not mean every one of them has the characteristic as well.
12 angry men logical fallacies examples
The Post Hoc fallacy is the assumption that a certain occurrence is usually as a result of another one. In the film, it is revealed that the defendant used to be beaten by his father. Some jurors were of the opinion that this could have influenced the boy to murder his father. The beatings led to accumulated resentment that eventually culminated in the killing. This is a fallacy given that it does not actually prove the boy committed the act, or that there is a link between the two events are related.
Other fallacies evident throughout the film are about the credibility of those who witnessed the crime. The so-called witnesses include an elderly man who claimed he heard the defendant yell ‘I will kill you’. There is a woman who claimed that she observed the crime act through the windows of a moving train, bearing in mind that she was not wearing her glasses. While some of the jurors believed the testimonies of those witnesses, they later saw the fallacy upon taking a closer examination.
The film 12 Angry Men highlights how powerful critical reasoning is, and the way it can assist people understand and solve problems in a more logical manner. Initially, the jurors were not in the same page about the verdict. However, they soon realized that they were committing fallacies and then changed their minds. It was a lengthy and difficult process and it took time for the jurors to figure out the correct verdict.
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