Cognitive Misers

Cognitive misers are used in an attempt to conserve cognitive energy in everyday life. These strategies are adopted to simplify complex problems. Some information is ignored to reduce the cognitive load (Aronson, 2007, p. 122). This is demonstrated in the movie “12 Angry Men”. The jurors discuss the case with a Puerto Rican teenager from the slums as the defendant. Juror number seven states that the defendant’s background doomed him to lead a criminal life. Juror number four supports him by citing a study about how slum conditions breed criminals (Lumet, 1957). People use reference points and contrast effects to make an object appear better or worse, depending on what it is compared to (Aronson, 2007, p. 123). Juror number three uses his relationship with his own son, and seems to believe that the defendant is guilty because he is a teenager who has routine conflicts with his dad (Lumet, 1957).

Priming is a procedure based on the notion that ideas that have been recently encountered are more likely to come to mind, and therefore to be used in interpreting events (Aronson, 2007, p. 126). In this movie the jurors, fresh from the courtroom, took a preliminary vote to “see who’s where”. Juror ten was talking as though it were a forgone conclusion that the defendant was guilty. Eleven out of the twelve jurors voted guilty (Lumet, 1957).

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Framing is the drawing of different conclusions based on how the data is presented (Aronson, 2007, p. 129). Juror number eight demonstrated framing when he presented a switchknife identical to the murder weapon. The murder weapon had been presented during the trial as a very unique knife of unusual design. However, juror eight had bought one exactly like it at a pawnshop two blocks from the crime scene. In doing this juror eight changed the original framing of the murder weapon as unique, as was indicated during the trail (Lumet, 1957).

Primacy effect

Primacy effect is the tendency for the first items presented in a series to be remembered better or more easily, or for them to be more influential than those presented later in the series (Aronson, 2007, p. 95). The jurors adjourn to the jury room where juror three is the first to mention that this is an open and shut case implying that the defendant is guilty prior to deliberations (Lumet, 1957).

Attention decrement occurs when later items or information get less attention. Minds tend to wander thus, they have less impact on judgments (Aronson, 2007, p. 134). This happens as the movie progresses. Information from the trial becomes less acute as juror eight argues that it is possible that the defendant may have lost his knife like he claimed. Juror six admitted he was convinced very early in the case that the defendant was guilty (Lumet, 1957).

Interpretive set is a term used when the initial items or information create an initial impression and are used to interpret subsequent information (Aronson, 2007, p. 134). For example, neighbors from across the hall to the crime scene stated that they heard the defendant arguing with is dad around eight that evening. They stated that the dad hit the defendant twice and saw the boy run angrily out of the building. Although no one saw the boy return later that night the neighbor downstairs stated that around Midnight he heard someone yell out, “I’ll kill you”, and heard a body hit the floor seconds later, and he looked out to see “him” running out of the building. The jurors connected these segments of information and connected them together as though there was an accurate positive identification of the defendant (Lumet, 1957).

Judgmental heuristics

Judgmental heuristics is used as a quick easy way of making a decision on how to solve problems at hand. Heuristics require little thought and only the ability to choose a strategy and apply it directly to a problem (Aronson, 2007, p. 135). The types of heuristics are the representative heuristic, availability heuristic, and attitude heuristic.

Representative heuristic is the focus on the similarity of one object to another to infer that the first object acts like the second object with the expectation that the information to fit expectations. The halo effect also applies to physical characteristics such as attractiveness and appearance or expectations (Aronson, p. 136). In the movie juror number ten takes every opportunity to apprise the other jurors of his knowledge of “these people” when he refers to the defendant. He says that “they” are fighting all the time, they get drunk, and human life doesn’t have the same meaning to them as it does to “us”. Juror number ten describes the defendants ethnic group very negatively and compares “them” to “us”. He is trying to convince the other jurors that because he knows how some Puerto Ricans behave then the defendant also behaves this way (Lumet, 1957).

Availability heuristic is when we focus on specific examples that come most readily to mind depending upon what we have experienced (Aronson, p. 138). Juror number ten has had negative experiences with Puerto Ricans and assigns the result of those experiences upon the young defendant who is also Puerto Rican. Juror number three has had very bad experiences with his own teenage son, and views the teenage defendant with the same anger as he does his own son. These experiences influence the attitudes of these jurors (Lumet, 1957).

Attitude heuristic is the use of preexisting evaluations to assign information to a favorable or unfavorable category according to our own attitude on the subject (Aronson, p. 140). One form of attitude heuristics is the halo effect, a bias in which favorable or unfavorable impressions of a person affect our inferences and future expectations about that person. The halo effect also applies to physical characteristics such as attractiveness and appearance (Aronson, 2007, p. 141). In the movie juror number ten places a strong negative bias on the defendant due to his ethnicity, which seems to be his only reason for believing in his guilt. Whereas, juror number three does the same thing concerning the fact that the defendant is a troubled teenager and had problems with his dad (Lumet, 1957).

Another form of attitude heuristics is the false-consensus effect. This is the tendency to overestimate the percentage of people who agree with us (Aronson, 2007, p. 141). It appears that in the beginning of jury deliberations that this is an open and shut case. Jurors one, three, seven, and twelve fully believe that the defendant is guilty and raise their hands quickly during the preliminary vote. Jurors two, five, six, eleven, and nine pause for a moment, then slowly raise their hands as well. Juror eight is the lone dissenter. The other jurors are apparently surprised it isn’t so open and shut a case after all (Lumet, 1957).

Categorization and stereotypes

Two methods of categorization and stereotypes are self-fulfilling prophecy and illusory correlation. Self-fulfilling prophecy is the process by which expectations and stereotypes lead people to treat others in a way that makes them conform to expectations (Aronson, 2007, p. 145). In the movie juror ten uses his stereotype of Puerto Ricans to treat the information in the trial consistent with his own expectations of how Puerto Ricans interact. Juror three does the same thing because of his own expectations of how teenagers behave. Juror four also has specific expectations because the defendant is from the slums (Lumet, 1957).

The illusory correlation is when one expects to see a relationship, and see it, though there is in fact no relationship present (Aronson, 2007, p. 145). In the movie the jurors see a relationship between the fight between the dad and the defendant that occurred at 8:00 p.m. and the murder which happened at around Midnight. This relationship was dissolved by juror eight. The neighbors across the hall saw the boy run out after the argument at 8:00 p.m. He had to go by their door to leave. The downstairs neighbor didn’t see anything but claims to have seem the boy run out of the building after he heard the threat “I’ll kill you” and the body hit the floor. However, juror eight pointed out that the downstairs neighbor had a limp and couldn’t move fast enough to have gotten to the front window to see anyone run outside.

In-group and out-group effects

The in-group is the group you belong to, and the outgroup is everyone else. The consequences of dividing the world into these two worlds is the homogeneity effect, and ingroup favoritism. Homogeneity effect is when everyone belonging to the out-group perceived as being similar to each other (Aronson, 2007, p. 146) In the movie jurors two, five, six, eleven, and nine hesitated to raise their hands to vote guilty during the preliminary vote at the beginning of deliberations. These jurors eventually changed their vote to not guilty before the other jurors who had voted immediately for guilty at that time. Juror eight was originally alone in voting not guilty and was the original out-group in this case. Eventually the tables are turned and all jurors vote not guilty with the exception of juror number three who then is in the out-group all alone (Lumet, 1957).

This created an in-group favoritism which is the perception that your own group as superior to others. The jurors who stood resolute against juror eight fully believing that he was wrong and were going to help him understand why. Instead they were convinced that they had been wrong. Now they are in the not guilty in-group against the last remaining guilty voter. The conclusion of the movie has the not guilty voters standing opposite juror ten with a distinct attitude of superiority about them (Lumet, 1957).

Memory as reconstructive is when memories are created from bits of information filtered through what we think might have been, or should have been, or what we would have liked it to be, and by what others tell us about it (Aronson, 2007, p. 147) in the movie juror eight couldn’t vote guilty because it would send the defendant to the electric chair. On the other hand, juror three claimed he would pull the switch himself. Juror eight liked the idea that the defendant be not guilty because of his reticence in sending the defendant to his death. While juror three liked the idea of the defendant being guilty perhaps as a catharsis to the anger he felt at his own son (Lumet, 1957).

Confirmation bias is selective thinking where one tends to notice and look for things that confirm an impression or belief and ignore things that contradict them (Aronson, 2007, p. 157). In the movie the stronger personalities said the defendant was guilty and the weaker jurors went along in the beginning. After juror eight voted not guilty he proceeded to convince the other jurors that they needed to discuss the case in detail. He looked for things throughout the entire process that ignored issues that contradicted his not guilty vote. Instead he cast doubt on the witnesses, and the evidence. Juror three ignored everything juror eight revealed until the very end because it contradicted his belief that the defendant was guilty (Lumet, 1957).

Hindsight bias is sometimes called the “I-knew-it-all-along” effect, the inclination to see past events as being predictable (Aronson, 2007, p. 158). After the preliminary vote juror number ten shook his head and said, “Boy oh boy, there’s always one” implying he somehow knew someone would vote not guilty (Lumet, 1957).

Attitude accessibility is when we associate an object with our attitude, highly accessible attitudes more likely to guide behavior (Aronson, 2007, p. 162) In the movie the jurors placed a strong association between the switchknife and the defendant buying one early on the evening of the murder. Testimony confirmed that the defendant was “real handy with a knife”. Juror eight bought one at a pawnshop two blocks from the crime scene and showed that the switchknife may not be as unique as was indicated in the trial. Although no one was actually in the room to properly identify the defendant at midnight when the crime took place, the jurors also placed a strong association between the argument at eight o’clock that evening and the murder (Lumet, 1957).

Biases in social explanation

Fundamental attribution error is the tendency to overestimate the importance of personality factors rather than situational factors when describing and explaining the causes of social behavior (Aronson, 2007, p. 167). No one really knows the personality of the defendant. They do know he fought with his dad and had a criminal record. It appears as though they are attributing his personality to be that of a hoodlum, instead of a troubled teenager, therefore, capable of murdering his dad. Juror seven states that the defendant’s background doomed him to lead a criminal life (Lumet, 1957).

Actor-observer bias is the tendency for actors to attribute their actions to situational factors while observers attribute the same actions to personality factors. (Aronson, 2007, p. 170). The jurors only know that the defendant said nothing in his own defense. The defendant found himself in a situation that was outside of his control. The police had no other leads and focused on him instead of investigating the crime. It wasn’t until juror eight mentioned that the police questioned the defendant in one room while his dad lay dead in the other room that the idea of emotional stress arose. No one thought that the boy might be in shock nor able to think coherently due to grief at the loss of his dad. Some jurors are assuming that he did the crime since he had a criminal history for juvenile offenses, and perhaps hated his dad. Other jurors are using their own personal issues sway them into believing the defendant is guilty (Lumet, 1957).

Self-serving bias: The tendency to make dispositional or personality attributions for our successes and to make situational attributions for our failures (Aronson, 2007, p. 172). Juror three Reminded of his own family’s personal crisis, Juror # 3 tells the jurors of his own disrespectful, teenaged boy who hit him on the jaw when he was 16. His son is now 22 years old, and he hasn’t seen his son for two years. The juror is embittered at the failed relationship with his son, “Kids! Ya work your heart out.” Thus, blaming the situation between his son and himself instead of realizing that he may have been a bad father (Lumet, 1957).

Egocentric thought is the tendency to perceive ourselves as more central to events than is actually the case (Aronson, 2007, p. 173) In the movie juror eleven is an egocentric salesman in the sense of being self-absorbed. He wants to be the focus. So, he talks about himself, and is only partly engaged in the deliberations of the jury. His self-absorption and lack of focus on the case explain his flip-flopping from guilty, to not guilty, to guilty, and back to not guilty. Juror three tries to make himself the center of antagonism against juror eight. Juror eight is the center of events as he is the one calling for all of the discussion in the attempt to prove there is a reasonable doubt in this case (Lumet, 1957).