Though I posted on this paper last year, the unfolding tragedy involving the Costa Concordia reminded me anew of the paper's spectacular research design and execution. To refresh, in in Behavior Under Extreme Conditions: The Titanic Disaster, the authors exploit archival data and a quasi-natural experiment provided by the Titanic and Lusitania's tragic sinkings to test theories about how people behave in extreme situations.
The Titanic carried only 20 lifeboats, which could accommodate about half the people aboard, and deck officers exacerbated the shortage by launching lifeboats that were partially empty. It took the Titanic over 3 hours to sink, and failure to secure a seat in a lifeboat virtually guaranteed death. In contrast, the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915 took only 18 minutes from when the torpedo hit the ship. The paper compares individual-level data on the passengers and crew on from both ships which sheds helpful light on some specific questions: "Did physical strength (being male and in prime age) or social status (being a first- or second-class passenger) raise the survival chance? Was it favorable for survival to travel alone or in company? Does one's role or function (being a crew member or a passenger) affect the probability of survival? Do social norms, such as "Women and children first!" have any effect? Does nationality affect the chance of survival?"