Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Using 12 Angry Men in Intro Psych

Looking for a meaningful post-AP or year-end activity? I have had a lot of success in the past with the movie 12 Angry Men, particularly as a vehicle to tie together many varied strands of social psychology. If you haven't seen the film, it's a 90-minute real-time depiction of the deliberation of a jury in a murder trial. The initial vote in the jury room is 11-1 guilty, and that's when the fun starts. Among the topics that you can illustrate here are minority influence, groupthink, group polarization, conformity, obedience, stereotype, scapegoat, persuasion and more. You can also bring in concepts from other units as well such as belief perseverance ("I still think he's guilty") and the concerns of eyewitness testimony.

There are many resources on the Internet for building a lesson plan around this film. Here is an interesting one that uses bingo cards for students to identify when they identify social psych concepts in the film. There's also a nice list of quotations from the film that match those concepts. Here's another one, a little old, but again it covers these same social psych concepts. If you have access there's a nice series of journal articles in the October 2007 issue of Negotiation Journal, including a satire written from the point of the view of the defendant who had been found not guilty by the jury but who admits he actually did it. And this site has mini-bios of each juror, along with a numbered photo of the group (handy since only two names are exchanged, and the only in the penultimate line of the film.)

[Long ago when teaching civics I had my students create the next day's newspaper based on this film, with various "reporters" covering the trial itself, reactions from the attorneys, neighbors, families, witnesses, jurors, etc. Some wise guy usually would include a scoop interview with the killer who admits he did it. Too bad I didn't think to get that published then!]

If you are planning on giving a written assignment, however, please also be aware that there are numerous sites where students can find term papers and other work on the subject. That aside, I think it's an excellent movie that will allow your students to put their knowledge in action as well as appreciate a fine example of American cinema.

How about you -- have you used 12 Angry Men? How so?

EDIT: Photo replaced (it didn't load when I viewed it the 2nd time.)


Rob Mc said...

Great idea! I remember being in this show in high school - great script (although watching a bunch of high school students get through all of that dialog may have been painful for the audience).

There's also a co-ed version of the show out there called "12 angry jurors".

I've heard that law offices employ psychologists to research how jurors are influenced - this movie might be a great way to get students interested in that research?

Virginia Welle said...

I haven't used this in my AP Psych classes, but I did have to write a paper on it for a Grad class in Group Dynamics. I remember we had to analyze which roles (facilitator, playboy, critical analyzer, etc.) each character adopted.

Chuck said...

I've used this back before AP when I had time to experiment. In addition to all the social psych and group dynamics, one can examine all sorts of cognitive issues, problem-solving processes, algorithms, heuristics, possible metacognition, role of memory, confabulation, mental sets, framing, belief bias, cognitive dissonance, persuasion, conversational styles, and more. I've also seen a version of the film that contains people of different ethnicities.

rakeback said...

I think the movie teaches a valuable lesson about making assumptions about people, rather than assessing the facts.