The following paper is a critical review of the American court room drama titled “Twelve Angry Men which was written by Reginald Rose and a feature film in 1957.  The film explores the ethical decision making of twelve jurors, who deliberate on the conviction or acquittal of an eighteen-year-old defendant, who was accused of murder.   Each juror has a diversity in personality and background, values and beliefs, which contribute to the friction and deliberation of the case.  A number of decision-making techniques and observations can be made throughout the movie and related to course work.  I will provide a summary of various decision-making techniques and relate this to the content of the movie.  I will also provide a summary of learnings and key concepts in relation to my own leadership decision making and the action or inaction that has taken place.

In daily life, we all face a range of decisions that need to be made, all with differing levels of importance and at times urgent in nature.  There is a variety of decisions that include automatic and programmed decisions to more intensive and non-programmed decisions.  Each of these influences the course of our present and future lives, and in many cases affect those around us.  In the movie “Twelve Angry Men”, a group of strangers are called to decide on the outcome of another individual’s life.  In a deliberate and focussed group, they gather in a room and proceed with a variety of decision-making techniques that lead to the outcome of their decision.  Within minutes of joining the room, conscious of the time and the uncomfortable heat in the room all but one individual had decided the accused was guilty of the crime.  Through a process of inquiry and advocacy however, the final decision was acquittal, and the opposing view was unanimous as a final decision.  The movie is a great example of how one leader, can change the view point of many through the use of a variety of techniques which I will explore below.

In total there were twelve jurors, each with various bias some that were known to them and others that they were unaware of.   Narrow Framing, occurred where the decision was framed around two options guilty or not guilty and this influenced how the men chose to proceed. After first assembling the meeting, they decided to do an open vote and a Confirmation Bias took place, where quick gut decisions were made and they looked for evidence to confirm their view.   It wasn’t until a eighth  juror presented a second knife that displayed how easy it was to purchase that the men started to question their original decisions.  Led by short-term emotions these men also let their feelings cloud their decisions.  They were uncomfortable, hot and didn’t want to spend hours in the room.  But when one juror pointed out that one hour was worth a man’s life, then men sat down and took some time to discuss their views.   The eighth juror caused the men to take the time and really analyse the facts of the case and he did this calmly by creating an environment of Inquiry.   By creating an environment of inquiry, he proceeded to define the case through questioning in order to avoid the Overconfidence in the information that they had, and to ensure that they considered what the future may hold.

The decision making that needed to take place was Non-Programmed Decision Making, where there was an end result that needed to be made that was known to each individual and the decision makers had a sense as to how to make the decision.  “Unique and important decisions require conscious thinking, information gathering and careful consideration to alternatives.” (Dunham, 2021) The decision level needed to be Strategic,  and Tactical as they defined what needed to be done and how to proceed. “Strategic Decisions set the course for an organisation, Tactile Decisions are decisions about how things will get done and Operational Decisions refer to decisions that employees make each day to make the organisation run.” (Dunham, 2021).  In this movie we see evidence of Strategic Decision making, as they consciously choose the best path forward. It was done poorly however, as although they had the Rational Decision to be made, where they had identified the problem, and established a loose decision criteria, (unanimous agreement beyond reasonable doubt), they did not do a very good job at evaluating alternatives.  At times they took a vote by hand, where all men could see the others votes and only once did they have a blind vote.  The reason this is not ideal, is it can create an environment of Group Think which is the practice of the group making decisions based on the domineering view point, and the open vote also made them less likely to want to think differently from their collegues known as Creative Thinking.  Several of the more domineering personalities were also permitted to speak first, advocating for their view point.  The Advocacy approach was not ideal in this situation, as it causes the individual to be blind to other ways of thinking and can cause a Group Think environment to take place.

Despite this however, one individual did take the Inquiry approach and managed to influence the group by encouraging an environment of questioning.  Through this questioning they arrived at a different final decision.

“Unique decisions require conscious thinking, information gathering and careful consideration of alternatives”. (Dunham, 2021)

By going through the eight steps of Rational Decision making, through inquiry these men were able to proceed in a more logical format.

Successful leaders know what they want at the outset of their decision making.

They set objectives to respond to and carry out a search for solutions, while this juror was unclear of what his final decision would be, he was clear that he wanted to ensure he had dedicated a proper investigation and inquiry into the case.   He re-evaluated the evidence, pacing out each step that was taken and in the process convincing other jurors that the witness testimonies had errors.  He questioned what was presented, how did the witness reach for his glasses, or how did the second witness view the boy leave the apartment through a moving train.  By questioning the evidence, he allowed for a deeper level of critical thinking to occur.  It is interesting to note that Nobel Prize winning economist Herbert Simon observed that while the rational decision making model may be helpful in aiding decision makers work through problems, it doesn’t represent how most decisions are made within organisations.  Also, even if all information was available it can be challenging to compare the pro’s and cons and based on several Ted talks I have viewed, too many options can be constricting and cause people to freeze and be unable to make decisions completely.

“Too much information can lead to analysis paralysis, in which more and more time is spent on gathering information and thinking about it, but no decision actually get made.”  (This is also a classic lesson in sales)

Thankfully however, the twelfth juror did not ask so many questions that it overwhelmed the jurors but just enough to cause doubt about their original decision.

The final decision was good enough and the discrepancies in the evidence were made obvious as the men questioned things further.  As this evidence was proved to be inconsistent there was less and less evidence that the boy was guilty and by limiting the options available the decision became clearer.  By limiting option the decision became easier, which is demonstrated in Ted Talk by Sheena Iyengar as well as neuroscientist Mariano Sigman who studies human behaviour. Both contribute to the findings that too many choices can cause people to freeze and not make a decision, and that it is best to narrow the options available.  By process of elimination facts were explored and discounted and since the jury needed to decide beyond reasonable doubt, the acquittal became obvious. Also, by making the individuals aware of their own bias, the jurors also questioned their viewpoint.

Finally, the Advocate in the group who was aggressive and loud was silenced as the group became aware of their bias they also looked closer at each other, allowing for a humbleness to occur where they were open to new ideas.

The Dangers of Group Think 

In this movie, I have observed a Group Think environment which was shifted by one leader a juror who manages to gain consensus of the group despite the original opposition.  The silencing of the Advocate in the group, also avoided a tendency to lean towards a higher risk option and allowed for the Inquiry method to take place also avoiding a Group Think environment.  By encouraging the group the inquire and think deeper about the case, the group avoided making a risky and quick decision.

This movie is a great example of how one individual can influence a group, despite the original observation that they had opposing views.   Without needing to advocate for a his viewpoint in a charismatic way, he swayed the opinion by creating an environment of questioning.  A good decision therefore took place, as many aspects of a good group occurred.  This included: diversity within the group, facilitation and process, clear outcomes that need to be achieved and a limitation of choices.  By also limiting the Advocate or louder individual to speak freely, an environment was created that allowed for all members to contribute.    For a more mature business group, there are clear benefits to having an appointed devil’s advocate who can question the reasoning and response of individual team members.  This ensures that they back up their statements with facts, and causes an environment of deeper questioning.   Testing the outcome as the meeting is conducted, and recording the results is also a good part of the process.  Clearly, decision making is a critical component of our personal lives and business environments.   While some decisions are clear others require more investigation and time.

Being aware of our values and bias, as well as other cultural or values that influence other decisions is also a good step to a good decision.


Ariely, D. (n.d.). Are we in control of our own decisions? TED.

Cummings, L. L., & Dunham, R. B. (1980). Introduction to organizational behavior: Text and readings. R.D. Irwin.

Ariely, M. S. and D. (n.d.). How can groups make good decisions? TED.

Garvin, D. A. (n.d.). What You Don’t Know About Making Decisions.

Schwartz, B. (n.d.). The paradox of choice. TED.

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