What happened? The researchers say it all comes down to time.
The passengers of the Lusitania had less than 20 minutes before their ship sank, and in such a life-and-death situation, social scientists say, “self-interested reactions predominate.” It didn’t matter what the captain ordered. The ship was going down and people reacted selfishly, and in such a situation, it would be expected that people in their prime (16 to 35) would be the most likely to win a seat on a lifeboat. In addition, because there were difficulties in launching those boats, people in that age group would have had an additional advantage because they were more likely to have had the strength and agility to stay on board a rocking boat or to climb back in after falling into the water.
The Titanic, though, sank slowly enough for social norms to hold sway. The passengers generally held to the rule of “women and children first” even though they could have easily overpowered the crew. And first- and second-class passengers may have benefited from the extra time in which they may have had earlier or better information from the crew or had other advantages.
Link | Image: NOAA