It's hard to remember your manners when you think you're about to die. The human species may have developed an elaborate social and behavioral code, but we drop it fast when we're scared enough — as any stampeding mob reveals.Read the rest here.
That primal push-pull is at work during wars, natural disasters and any other time our hides are on the line. It was perhaps never more poignantly played out than during the two greatest maritime disasters in history: the sinking of the Titanic and the Lusitania. A team of behavioral economists from Switzerland and Australia have published a new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) that takes an imaginative new look at who survived and who perished aboard the two ships, and what the demographics of death say about how well social norms hold up in a crisis.
The Lusitania and the Titanic are often thought of as sister vessels; they in fact belonged to two separate owners, but the error is understandable. Both ships were huge: the Titanic was carrying 2,207 passengers and crew on the night it went down; the Lusitania had 1,949. The mortality figures were even closer, with a 68.7% death rate aboard the Titanic and 67.3% for the Lusitania. What's more, the ships sank just three years apart — the Titanic was claimed by an iceberg on April 14, 1912, and the Lusitania by a German U-Boat on May 7, 1915. But on the decks and in the passageways and all the other places where people fought for their lives, the vessels' respective ends played out very differently.
I'm not sure a vast study was required of this. As a hobby I have had more than a passing interest in the history of the great ocean liners. And I am familiar with the tragic stories of both ships. One being the victim of a tragic accident compounded by hubris, and the other the victim of one of the more shocking war crimes in history. (Yes, I am well aware of allegations that the Lusitania was carrying war contraband. But even if true that does not justify sinking an unarmed ship known to be carrying thousands of passengers including women and children.)
The two ships were indeed remarkably similar in many respects including appearance. But really... was a detailed study required to tell them what they found? People in a traumatic emergency situation will panic and some will act badly. Others with time to think and collect themselves tend to behave better. Anyone with a modicum of common sense would know that. And anyone with a working knowledge of the demise of the two steamers could have told them that they went down under very different circumstances.
I guess I am just wondering at the big deal over something that I already knew when I was in High School. Still for those not familiar with basic psychology and or the history of these two tragic ships, the article makes for a good read.