I heard this story on NPR recently, and then when I saw this tweet by @hrheingold, I remembered that I’d wanted to look up the article in Nature, which I did:

Fehr, E., Bernhard, H., & Rockenbach, B. (2008). Egalitarianism in young children. Nature, 454(7208), 1079-1083.

As the parent of a child who is deep in the throes of the Terrible Twos, I’m extremely interested in this research that shows that egalitarianism and empathy develops between ages 7-8. Because a 2 year-old sure hasn’t got any.

In searching for this article, I stumbled across an older paper by one of the same authors, Ernst Fehr:

Fehr, E., & Gachter, S. (2002). Altruistic punishment in humans. Nature, 415(6868), 137-140.

This is yet another article that I take to be on the topic of my obsession, what motivates people to participate in open projects. Though actually, the more I live with this particular obsession, the more I realize what it’s really about is the Free Rider problem, or more accurately, why in certain contexts the Free Rider problem appears not to exist, or at least is not a problem.

For my money, the interesting thing about this 2001 article is that it makes the case that there’s an evolutionary basis for cooperation. Which means that free ridership is the anomaly, not the other way around. Which means that my failure to understand the motivation to not free-ride means that I’m a sociopath, or a Neanderthal, or something.