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This article describes a recent emergency plane evacuation. There were some people who felt their belongings in the overhead compartments were worth so much that they delayed the evacuation of others trying to retrieve them.

I truly don't understand this human behavior. We have seen it before in similar cases. I wouldn't call this an isolated incident. The only reasons I can come up with are 1, They don't understand the seriousness of the emergency. 2,People traveling from poorer countries may have everything they own in that overhead bag, money, passport, etc. 3, Some people just don't react well under the gun. They do not remain cool under pressure and block the emergency out. 4. Greed.

The article suggests putting a locking mechanism on the entire cabin before landing. I don't think this would be wise. those who stop to get their baggage will only take more time trying to get at their items.

I don't have a solution for this behavior, but I do know it irks me to read about it. It doesn't bother me that the person getting their bag suffers the consequences of their actions, its the people who cannot escape due to the ignorance of others that bothers me.


This behavior can come in many forms, road rage, Talking in the movie theater etc. When mountain climbers get trapped on a cliff they are scaling why should a rescue team have to put their lives on the line to save them? They risk injury or death trying to get to them because someone wanted a thrill. I've been on this planet for a long time yet human nature continues to baffle me.

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What impresses me of your post is that actually 3 of the 4 reasons you gave are good.

1) In the building I work I have at least 2 trial fire-drills a year plus 2 "real ones" turning out to be someone cooking waffels...so I tend to not believe too much in the alarms. But then if there were to be smoke, I would take it more serious.

2) Makes sense and if in addition they come from some corrupt country they know how difficult it will be to get help from their state.

3) There are studies of this, if I remember right there 4 main categories of reactions one of them is freeze, the other panicking and not being rational. Thing is until you are not under the gun you just don't know how you react (I was very happy to learn that I fall into the category "rational", when in the middle of nowhere there was suddenly a rattlesnacke rattling 1m from and my 3year old...I just did what all the natives told us to do in case "watch where the snake is and just walk the other way" I lifted my son up first though). NB: tried to find some links about it

4) Some of these people might also fall into option 2)

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In most cases, during an emergency, motivations are less specific than you might think. Unless trained, most people's first reaction is to hesitate while they identify what has happened. Second, is to assess how immediate the threat is. If the threat level does not generate a flight response, the next thing people often do is fall back to what their focus was before the emergency.

Unless there is an immediate visible threat, most people seem to think they have time to grab something. If a businessman had it is his mind to not forget his briefcase, even if there was nothing of value in it, he would likely reach to take it with him.

It's possible it may be a way for some people to cope with the emergency. The fact they were able to secure a piece of something personal could provide a degree of comfort in the face of danger. "I've got this so everything is alright now."

Edited by superpsycho
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Sanctus, your comment about picking up your son and calmly walking away adds another element. I had a few incidents when my kids were young and I suspect that is not the only incident you had which required extending your reactions to help a young one.


superpyscho, So It sounds like your saying some people use "comfort items" as someone would use comfort food when things are not going well. Which is probably true as they wanted to keep the items with them rather than trust them going in with the regular luggage.

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Looking at the behavior of people jeopardizing their and their fellow passengers escape from a burning airplane from an evolutionary biological perspective leads to the question of the advantages that this behavior gave our ancestors, causing it to be evolutionarily selected for.


I imagine that, since prehistory, our ancestors were often faced with fleeing perils, with the choice of taking or abandoning their possessions. Individuals who fled without the essentials needed for survival, such as tools, clothing and shelter items, thought they were able to flee quicker, survived in fewer numbers than those who delayed to grab and carry what they could, so the genes underlying the latter behavior became more widespread in the population than those for the latter.


Though in the case of an airplane burning on a runway with rescue teams on the way, this atavistic behavior is a detriment to survival. In the slightly different scenario of a far from rescue crashed and burning in a cold wilderness, it would not be, as the cloths in ones carry-on bag might spell the difference between surviving and freezing to death.


If fiery airplane evacuations where death or survival were a matter of seconds were a common occurrence, and this state persisted for many generations, as the assortment of ancient threats that lead to its selection were, the “flee with your possessions, not without” behavior might be selected out of our population.


A collection of far more valuable genetically-based behaviors under the category of reasoning and language. This is the behavior that resulted in some or most of the passenger remembering the scant training in their pre-flight briefing and seatback materials, or having previously or on-the-spot thought out the situation and realizing that delaying to get their carry-on bags was not the best choice for the situation.


I think the pre-flight briefings could be improved by including words to the effect that in the event of an evacuation, luggage would be kept safe until it could be reclaimed, and if destroyed, passengers well-financially compensated. If this could be made to stick in their minds, they’d be more likely to follow the proper evacuation procedure.

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