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

hose in the upper class with the best access to such information, they said.

What's more, the added time also would have allowed for the dissipation of adrenaline, which triggers a fight-or-flight reaction that, by contrast, would have been in play throughout the entire Lusitania sinking.

"Time seems to be a crucial element," noted Torgler. "If people have time to interact and communicate, social norms and helping behavior emerges. Children, families with children and women in general have then a higher probability of surviving, while men have a higher willingness to surrender a seat on a lifeboat."

Other factors, however, might also have influenced behavior on the two ships, the researchers acknowledged. For example, the fact that Lusitania passengers already knew of the gruesome fate of the Titanic just three years earlier could have contributed to a less restrained reaction. Differing ship structures and the fact that the Lusitania incident occurred in a wartime context also might have affected passenger thinking, they said.

Yet Torgler and his colleagues suggest that, in general, their observations could help planners devise more effective disaster-reaction strategies by broadening the understanding of how people juggle survival instincts with social pressures when confronting extreme situations.

For his part, Robert J. Gatchel, a professor of clinical health psychology at the University of Texas at Arlington, agreed that timing does affect behavior during a disaster, while noting that other issues of perception are almost certainly also at play.

"On the Titanic, there was clearly a predetermined perception that it was unsinkable," he remarked. "There was all the pre-travel publicity about that. So the passengers probably had a feeling that 'Yeah, we're evacuating the ship but it's not really going to go down, and we're doing it for a precautionary reason.' There was probably a perception that this wasn
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