'What’d you do in a burning building?' poll results/discussion

Poll between 15-22 September 2008.

What'd you do in a burning building?

Decision-making psychology plays a huge part in how we make money judgements, so for a bit of fun, here’s a classic dilemma

Important. Please read the scenario before answering.

You’re in a cinema watching a film and a fire starts, scaring the begeebies out of you. There are four possible outcomes…
  • You walk & everyone else walks… most people get out safely.
  • You run & everyone else walks… you definitely get out safely, others don't.
  • You walk & everyone else runs… many get killed, you’re definitely one.
  • You run & everyone else runs… many get killed, you’re possibly one.
You don't know what everyone else will do. Would you...

A. Walk 64% (6491 votes)
B. Run 36% (3710 votes)

Voting has now closed, but you can still click 'post reply' to discuss below. Thanks :)



  • Seems like a version or twist of the classic "Prisoners Dilemna" - classic Game Theory!!
    What shall I put here? :confused:
  • This is complete BS, everyone knows the real answer - there would be a mad dash as everyone runs.

    There have been various instances documented of evacuations from planes in real life simulations - ie people are told that there is a fire and they must exit the plane (which is safely on the ground, and not really on fire). Guess what, everyone makes a polite orderly exit and the plane is emptied in 80 seconds.

    However when an incentive is added, eg the first 50 people out get £10 (or in the real life situation, they get to stay alive) it's very different - panic ensues.

    I dont believe most people who say they will walk, has anyone ever been at the airport waiting for a Ryanair flight to board. As soon as a few people make for the queue everyone joins in, it's pathetic but it's human behaviour and I get sucked into it like everyone else.

  • Pick a seat near the emergency exit and always wear running shoes when you visit the cinema - (your) problem solved!!
    " The greatest wealth is to live content with little."


  • MSE_MartinMSE_Martin MoneySaving Expert
    8.3K Posts
    hammodt wrote: »
    Seems like a version or twist of the classic "Prisoners Dilemna" - classic Game Theory!!

    It is indeed, just thought a cinema would be easier to visualise for people.

    What's interesting is not so much "what people would do" but "what people think they would do"

    Actually on current results the sad thing is all those who say they would run, would probably get out safe, leaving the 2/3 who'd walk trampled on and dying!
    Martin Lewis, Money Saving Expert.
    Please note, answers don't constitute financial advice, it is based on generalised journalistic research. Always ensure any decision is made with regards to your own individual circumstance.
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  • If we make some assumptions on probabilities and that there's only 1 other person....

    A) You walk, other person walks. High probability of survival. 80%
    B) You run, other person walks. Definite survival. 100%
    C) You walk, he runs. Very Low survival. 10%
    D) You run, he runs. Low survival. 20%

    If we assume the other guy has a 50/50 chance of running, then we get.

    A+C) You walk, probability of survival. (80+10)/2 = 45%
    B+D) You run, probability of survival. (100+20)/2 = 60%

    Ergo, you should run. Now, what are the chances that someone would sit and work all this out while the cinema is burning? 0%.

    BTW, with regards to the Ryanair scenario, I'm the type that usually sits reading the paper till the queue's gone..., but if there was a fire, I'm deffo running!
  • jud!thjud!th Forumite
    126 Posts
    I'd rather do what was right and die.


    Would you rather do what was wrong and have the deaths of others on your conscience for the rest of your life?
  • jud!th wrote: »
    I'd rather do what was right and die.


    Would you rather do what was wrong and have the deaths of others on your conscience for the rest of your life?

    But what is right? Assuming walking is 'right' and running is 'wrong', you can both do the 'right' thing and still die. If we just take 2 people and repeat the experiment 1000 times, most of the times, both will survive, but there will be times when 1 will die, and times when both will die! Also, you can run, he can walk, and it's possible you'll both survive.

    I guess it might be possible to weigh the walk/run choices with right/wrong handicaps, but, I have no idea where to start...
  • jmf76jmf76 Forumite
    363 Posts
    Part of the Furniture Combo Breaker
    Who knows what you might do in that scenario...

    I went on a Fire Warden training session last year and there was a video of a fire starting in a small shop (ok, not a cinema, but bear with me!) The vid showed a couple of kids shoplifting, so one started a little fire to distract the store assistant whilst the other bagged some sweets. The problem was the fire was started right by the front door, which was the only entrance/exit to the whole shop (no entrance/exit out the back), so you'd think people would get out asap - we guessed they'd all be panicing and running out within 15 secs max. We were totally wrong:

    2 people already in the shop queuing carried on queuing, even though they'd noticed what the kids had done.
    1 other person walked into the store, saw the fire but carried on into the store (she had to walk right past it!) and started shopping!
    Someone then eventually pointed at the fire as it suddenly flared up, so the cashier went out the back (no exit out there, so she could have been trapped) and tried to put it out with an extinguisher (but, from memory, i don't think she couldn't get it to work!)
    The kids came back and nicked more stuff whilst the cashier went out the back to get the extinguisher (they'd been hovering outside).
    The cashier then realised she should probably get out and the people inside casually followed.
    Someone, spotting that everyone was outside, went into the shop past the fire, went out the back, nicked a couple of bottles of booze and walked back out again (this was about 5 seconds before the shop totally filled with toxic smoke).

    So the shop was finally emptied after about 3 minutes, and a few seconds later the video was impaired by smoke.

    DFW Lightbulb moment Sept 2006, Debt-free Dec 2009 :j:j:j
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  • NaomimNaomim Forumite
    3K Posts
    Part of the Furniture 1,000 Posts Photogenic Name Dropper
    I would run. Because selfishly I know I would only be likely to be thinking of myself in that situation and would leg it as fast as my little legs would carry me. :rolleyes:

    Naomi x
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  • droniddronid Forumite
    592 Posts
    Part of the Furniture 500 Posts Combo Breaker Photogenic
    :eek::eek::eek: Interesting choice of question!

    I would probably try to keep the crowd calm and ensure that as many as possible got out OK. I have been in situations where an 'incident' occurred and, so far, have kept my head. I hope I would in that situation.

    Particularly if I had to fight to get out! People are more likely to freeze than run. If I needed to fight to get out I could certainly make sure some other's could too.

    Of course I could put the fire out. Why does no-one ever think of that? If the Exit(s) are blocked I might be better off with a fire extinguisher.biggrin.gif

    I could make it better myself at home. All I need is a small aubergine...

    I moved to Liverpool for a better life.
    And goodness, it's turned out to be better and busier!
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