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Titanic Passengers Less Selfish Than Some in Other Disasters
Date:3/1/2010

ears of age had a much higher probability of surviving the disaster than did men of a similar age. In terms of economic class and social power, first-class passengers were found to have better survival rates than their poorer shipmates.

On the Lusitania, on the other hand, both men and women aged 16 to 35 had a greater chance of survival than did younger or older passengers. And bearers of first-class passage actually were less likely to survive than third-class passengers.

The researchers concluded that, on the Lusitania, a "survival of the fittest" pattern was in play, whereas prevailing social protocols and captain orders were enforced on the Titanic and respected by crew and passengers alike. A report on their findings is published in this week's online issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

What accounts for the differences in behavior? Torgler and his colleagues think it was mainly a question of timing.

The Lusitania, they pointed out, sank just 18 minutes after it was torpedoed by a German U-boat on May 7, 1915, killing more than 1,198 people from a manifest of 1,258 passengers and 691 crew members.

By contrast, the Titanic stayed afloat for two hours and 40 minutes after striking ice on the night of April 14, 1912. Although 1,512 people died in that disaster -- from among 1,300 passengers and 886 crew onboard -- the extra coping time afforded the Titanic's crew and passengers a sort of psychological buffer against selfishness, according to the researchers.

People on the Titanic were better able to resist the powerful instinct to save oneself by using superior physical prowess to flee -- a mindset that seemed to prevail on the much more quickly doomed Lusitania, the researchers said.

On the Titanic, time appeared to favor adoption of respect for social norms, which favored women, while fostering a better of exchange of lifesaving advice that probably favored t
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