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Sink, Swim, Or Help Someone Else

Sink, Swim, Or Help Someone Else

The old social rule, "women and children first", has been a steadfast in cases of emergencies for a long time.  Though it is widely believed that most groups of people will follow this rule in a time where a quick evacuation is needed, this may not actually be the case.  New research shows that unless there is an ample amount of time to think before a catastrophe, most people will fend for themselves and not worry much about others. 

An article from the Los Angeles Times reports about some research done on two very famous shipwrecks, the Titanic and the Lusitania.  Both ships held passengers of similar economic statuses, ages, and genders.  A group of researchers from the Queensland University of Technology in Australia, headed by economist Benno Torgler , studied the two shipwrecks as a way to further explore an economic theory "that people generally behave in a rational and selfish manner."

What the researchers found was that during the sinking of the Titanic the people who took charge brought women and children to the safety of the life rafts first, before the men.  The Titanic also took 3 hours to fully sink.  The case of the Lusitania however, turned out much differently.  After being torpedoed by a German U-boat it sank rather quickly, in just 18 minutes.  The survivors of this wreck were mostly young men and women, the people who first responded to their own instincts of survival.

What the team of researchers concluded was that when we have more time to think in emergencies is when social instincts kick in and we act in a more civilized manner.  But in cases where we have little time to think, most of us will go with our gut and try to save ourselves.  It seems, social class enters into this too.  As in the case with the Titanic most of the survivors were women and children of a higher class, whereas survivors of the Lusitania were mostly young men and women from steerage.

What do you think of the research being done of the way people reacted on the Titanic and the Lusitania"

Do you think it’s accurate that people tend to fend for themselves, rather than help a neighbor, when they have less time to react in an emergency?

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  • mommaduck By mommaduck
    05.21.10  

    its a tough one and i dont know if you can answer it unless you are in the situation. of course people would want to save themselves, i would. However to me my children come first i will do whatever i can to make sure they are safe -husband to (that goes for my entire family also).after that i guess it just depends on the situation and how the person would handle it, i would think if there is someone close to you that needs help you will help them but other than that i dont know what anyone would do.

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