12 Angry Personalities

In honor of director Sidney Lumet (who died earlier this year) here's some thoughts on one of my favorite movies by him: 12 Angry Men.

I've mentioned before how I enjoy trying to pick out different temperaments/personality types when I watch movie characters. Ensemble casts provide a nice opportunity for type matching, and one of my favorite films along these lines is 12 Angry Men. Set in the rather claustrophobic confines of a jury room, the movie gives 12 actors a chance to showcase 12 distinct characters with interesting personality differences. I recently rewatched the movie with the purpose of analyzing the 12 personality types represented according to David Keirsey's temperament sorter.

First, it might be helpful to explain briefly how these types are divided. Each personality type is represented by four letters made up from these possibilities:

E for Extroversion or I for Introversion 
(sometimes the easiest to spot, outgoing vs. reserved people)
S for Sensation or N for iNtuition 
(an S focuses on actual, concrete things, an N looks at possibilities and ideas)
T for Thinking or F for Feeling 
(deciding with head or heart, objective vs. subjective)
J for Judging or P for Perceiving
(Js are more organized, scheduled and faster with decisions and tend to see things as more black or white, Ps like to keep options open and are more flexible)

There are 16 possible combinations from these letters which in turn divide the temperaments into four categories:

Artisans (SPs) are action types and more impulsive
Guardians (SJs) are responsible, helpful, steady
Idealists (NFs) are intuitive, soulful, ethical
Rationals (NTs) are logical, ingenious, and theoretical

Confused yet? Don't worry. I'll break it down more specifically for each of our 12 jurors. (When writing out the letters that make up the types below, the capitals are for ones I feel more certain about, while the lowercase letters are ones I am not as sure about, or where the character only leans slightly more to one letter.)

Juror #1 - Guardian (eSfJ )
The foreman of the jury seems like a bit of a natural leader, and turns out to be a high school assistant coach in his regular life. He's organized, making a page to track guilty and not guilty votes, but he's also careful to weigh everyone's opinions carefully before committing to any action. At one point his feelings get hurt, but he rallies before long. Overall, he does his best to keep the rest of the jurors on track, giving weight to tradition and authority, perhaps as a mix of his position and his personality.

Juror #2 -  Guardian (ISfJ)
Mild and meek, Juror #2 is a bit too easily swayed. But he's also concerned about what's right, doesn't like when the plans for talking around the table in order change, and is quite happy to help out by timing the recreation of the old man's walk. His occupation (he works at a bank) is a classic Guardian logistical job.

Juror #3 - Guardian (EStj)
While some things about juror #3 had me viewing him as an Artisan at first, breaking it down he seems to be more of a Guardian. This very excitable juror is the last to change his vote, and while his stubbornness could be seen as being based more on emotions than facts, he starts off with his little notebook with facts of the case and tries to insist that he has no personal feelings on the matter. He takes everything about the trial very personally due to being stuck in thoughts of his own past and family, two very Guardian preoccupations. His forceful personality is used to getting its own way and being in control; perhaps this is what he's like in managing his messenger service. He's not very tolerant of other people's viewpoints when they don't match up with his. He also sometimes speaks without thinking, even when it's to the detriment of his own arguments.

Juror #4 - Rational (iNTJ)
A broker, #4 has very strong opinions and isn't afraid to defend them. He's self-confident almost to the point of arrogance. While others are swayed or influenced by emotional appeals, this juror is only concerned with logic, relying on facts to support his position that the boy on trial is guilty and didn't have a convincing alibi. He's more truthful than tactful and comes across as rather cold, not even seeming to sweat while everyone else is suffering in the heat. He finally is persuaded and votes not guilty when he has a reasonable doubt about the testimony of an eyewitness.

Juror #5 - Guardian (iStJ)
This juror takes a pass at first in explaining why he voted guilty, but eventually opens up with his own ideas and opinions about the case. Despite being defensive about his background, he is not afraid to stand up for himself when he changes his vote. And he's quite certain about how the boy would have handled a switchblade; when he's sure, he's sure. Takes being a juror seriously.

Juror #6 - Artisan (IStP)
This juror is not so good on remembering the details and is at first most concerned about motive. As suits an Artisan, he does physical work, at one point talking about a painting job and also explaining he's a working man that lets his boss do the supposing. In general he stays rather quiet, letting more extroverted jurors do a lot of the talking, but when something strikes him he speaks up, occasionally forcefully as when defending the old man. Slow to decide, listens, then acts.

Juror #7 - Artisan (ESFP)
Impatient due to the ballgame tickets burning a hole in his pocket, Juror #7 blows with the wind, forming strong opinions without needing facts to defend them. He behaves very emotionally, is quick to take offense. He's also quick to talk and sometimes loud, can't sit still and jokes and whistles. He plainly wants to be more active than the restraints of being on a jury would allow. While this marmalade salesman is not above making fun of people, in general he's a people person and feeds off the energy of others.

Juror #8 - Idealist (iNFj)
Juror #8 has one of the strongest and most interesting parts. While he's quiet and thoughtful at the start, he has to stand on his own and attempt to make a convincing argument to take some time to talk before sending in a final verdict. This architect is definitely more focused on the big picture, making his opening plea almost exclusively about what might possibly be wrong with the case. He's concerned about truth and justice but is also very compassionate.

Juror #9 - Guardian (IsFj)
This man may be a bit timid in part due to his old age, but his quiet nature also makes him insightful, noticing very specific details about witnesses that many others on the jury missed. He's the first to change his vote to not guilty, mostly to give #8 a chance to make his case and out of respect for his motives in gambling for support. In talking about the older man that gave testimony it's almost as though he's talking about himself, revealing that he wants to be useful and to do something valuable, even if it's just this once as a juror.

Juror #10 - Artisan (EsFp)
If you can ignore for a second this juror's bigotry and his nasty cold, you can see that he's still an outspoken loudmouth with strong opinions. He has an ugly emotional outburst and seems crushed when he loses the ears of the others.

Juror #11 - Rational (INTp)
Even before he votes not guilty, this respectful watchmaker raises questions about whether or not the boy would have come back to the scene of the crime. When called out about it, he says he doesn't believe he has to be loyal to one side or another, he's just asking questions. But he does get very upset when juror #7 changes his vote seemingly without any good logical reason. And he's quick to correct the other jurors when they get their facts (or grammar) wrong.

Juror #12 - Idealist (ENFP)
An ad man, juror #12 is given to colorful speech, is easily distracted and spends his time doodling, and also seems rather insecure in his opinions, being the only member of the jury to swing back and forth with his votes. He likes to talk, likes coming up with new ideas, decides emotionally and to please people but has some problem with follow-through.

At one point a juror comments, "Nice bunch of guys, huh?" and is answered: "They're about the same as anyone else." The movie showcases a nice cross-section of people and personalities in one very specific pressurized situation.

We can begin to see these personalities at work right from the start of the movie. The more Extroverted characters (#s 3, 7, 10 &12) are the ones at the beginning striking up conversations in the jury room before any official discussion starts, while the Introverts (like #s 2, 4, 6 & 11 ) are more quiet. The Sensory types (#s 1, 2, 3) are more apt to get lost in specific details, while the iNtuitive ones (#s 4, 8, 11), while perhaps talking about specific parts of the case, are more concerned with the overall ideas and bigger picture. Those making decisions based on Thinking (#s 4, 11) find the emotional perspective and outbursts of the Feelers (#s 7, 10) unconvincing and even annoying. The Judging types (#s 3, 4) feel more strongly that things are black and white, while the Perceivers (#s 7, 12) blow with the wind a bit more, even with their votes.

Interestingly, the population in general is made up of more Artisans and Guardians, with Idealists and Rationals being a smaller percentage. Assuming my guesses are at least mostly correct, this reality is also reflected in the fictional jury room of 12 Angry Men.

Of course, the characters in the movie also have other aspects of their personalities which are not dependent on temperament types. Juror #3 has strong personal feelings based on his relationship with his estranged son, #5 comes from a bad background and so is sensitive to talk about slums, #10 is openly and obnoxiously prejudiced. There's also variety in age and backgrounds. These traits/experiences are not specific to any type, yet they do have a big impact on character as well.

Overall, the movie is a great example not only of how the justice system works, but how different personality types relate and interact. As such it has stood the test of time and holds up well even with repeated watchings. I don't suppose that the different characters were made up based on any temperament sorter, yet in representing different types of people the personalities ring true and are quite fun to analyze.

If you'd like to learn more about temperaments and personality types, I'd recommend checking out these sites: TypeLogic, BestFitType and Keirsey.com. If you're already into personality types and you agree or disagree with my conclusions, let me know, I'd love to hear another perspective!


Pinecone Stew said...

GREAT movie !!!

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Cesia said...

Wow, cool post. I love it! Although I think I would never be able to do this, the endless possibilities and second-guessing would leave me paralyzed. Lol.

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Unknown said...

I absolutely and completely adore this film.

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