The Costa Concordia's captain panicked. How do you know you wouldn't have?

Schettino will undoubtedly be vilified for his actions – but how many of us can say that we would not have done the same thing? Self-preservation is an instinct, much in the same way that your instincts tell you to put your hands out for protection when you let yourself fall backwards. In the face of impending danger, our brains can swing into reflexive defence mode, operating much faster and more automatically than when they recourse to calm, rational reasoning. Respond first and ask questions later, is the message, rather than place yourself in harm’s way…

The “flight” impulse is usually accompanied by blind panic. When we panic, reason and balanced evaluation of the situation is by-passed by escalating, disorganised thoughts of terror that automatically intrude into consciousness. There can also be a sense of depersonalisation, a feeling that everything around is unreal. In short, when we panic, we feel that we are out of control and not our old self.