A Study in Child Cooperation: Sweden vs. Colombia


The behavior of children continues to be of interest for both economists and Freakonomics. Back in May, we looked at research by the German economist Martin Kocher showing that young children are generally less risk-averse than adults. Now, a working paper by Juan-Camilo Cardenas, Anna Dreber, Emma von Essen and Eva Ranehill at the Stockholm School of Economics compares the cooperative behavior of Swedish children and Colombian children using the Prisoner’s Dilemma game, which explores how two parties cooperate in the absence of communication. Here’s the abstract:

We compare how children aged 9-12 in Colombia and Sweden cooperate in a Prisoner’s Dilemma. We introduce a new measurement device for cooperation that can be easily understood by children. There is some evidence of more cooperation in Sweden than in Colombia. Girls in Colombia are less cooperative than boys, whereas our results indicate the opposite in Sweden. Girls are in general more cooperative with boys than with girls. Relating cooperation to competitiveness, this appears to be task and country dependent.

The authors aim to explore how preferences regarding cooperative behavior are formed, given its important role in maintaining a functional society, and the interplay between culture and gender. From the paper:

We find evidence of children in Colombia being less cooperative than children in Sweden. This is mainly due to a significant difference in cooperation between girls from the two countries. Girls in Colombia are less cooperative than boys, whereas our results suggest the opposite in Sweden. We find some impact of the gender of the opponent, with girls being more cooperative with boys than with girls. Correlating behavior in the cooperative task and the competitive tasks, we find different results comparing girls from the two countries, but these correlations are not present in all tasks. There is no evidence of a correlation among boys.


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Roger S

My takeaway from this is that women take their cues from society moreso than men, the canaries in the coal mine.

Mike B

Well of course children in Sweden are going to be more cooperative due to the greater prevalence of Stockholm Syndrome X-D


I'm not surprised, sadly. I'm a Mexican living in Canada and I see fundamental differences in the social attitude, maybe similar to comparing Colombia with Sweden.

In Latin America you have to look after yourself and protect your own (and your family's) interests at all expense, or else you risk being screwed by someone. This applies to everything from personal property, business, government, etc.

In Canada there's an underlying feeling of respect and care for one another, of protecting the "common wealth".

Of course this is a generalization and oversimplification of very complex realities, but this somehow gets ingrained into our children's behavior.


The epitomy of Canadian cooperation is the Capillano Suspension Bridge in Vancouver, BC: Every day after 3 PM or so, the bridge switches to single lane heading into town. This means that there are 4 lanes of busy traffic merging into one. Every time I take part in that event I am amazed at the smoothness with which this occurs and the courtesy displayed by (otherwise fairly aggressive) drivers. In most other countries I have visited or lived in there would be at least some incidents and possibly warfare. Not in Vancouver

Time out- no more curt sees for me.

Men (or should I say boys) who abuse women lie to themselves all the time as if you bear no responsibility. Look into the mirror, mirror on the wall. Harvard was smart enough to stop the betting. It was a losing battle and they knew they would lose). They got good legal council. The trouble is- you still don't understand my aim and unless I publish, you never will. That will be the real American tragedy that you caused by your trickstery. I do hope to publish. But right now, my trust level is almost ziltch and that really is your fault. Public apology is required!

One thing I learned- angry people never win battles. Thanks.

No more curt sees for me

addendum. One thing I learned a long, long time ago. As for that doctrine, you bet the truth hurts. That is why you hid it and some people hide from it.

The Monroe Doctrine

I had this one professor who studied a factory that made"screws." I knew that his research on deviant behavior would come in handy one day when it came to the subject of women, children, minorities and the disenfranchised.

Citation: Message of President James Monroe at the commencement of the first session of the 18th Congress (The Monroe Doctrine), 12/02/1823; Presidential Messages of the 18th Congress, ca. 12/02/1823-ca. 03/03/1825; Record Group 46; Records of the United States Senate, 1789-1990; National Archives.)
How to use citation info.
(on Archives.gov) The Monroe Doctrine was articulated in President James Monroe's seventh annual message to Congress on December 2, 1823. The European powers, according to Monroe, were obligated to respect the Western Hemisphere as the United States' sphere of interest.

President James Monroe’s 1823 annual message to Congress contained the Monroe Doctrine, which warned European powers not to interfere in the affairs of the Western Hemisphere.

Understandably, the United States has always taken a particular interest in its closest neighbors – the nations of the Western Hemisphere. Equally understandably, expressions of this concern have not always been favorably regarded by other American nations.

The Monroe Doctrine is the best known U.S. policy toward the Western Hemisphere. Buried in a routine annual message delivered to Congress by President James Monroe in December 1823, the doctrine warns European nations that the United States would not tolerate further colonization or puppet monarchs. The doctrine was conceived to meet major concerns of the moment, but it soon became a watchword of U.S. policy in the Western Hemisphere.

The Monroe Doctrine was invoked in 1865 when the U.S. government exerted diplomatic and military pressure in support of the Mexican President Benito Juárez. This support enabled Juárez to lead a successful revolt against the Emperor Maximilian, who had been placed on the throne by the French government.

Almost 40 years later, in 1904, European creditors of a number of Latin American countries threatened armed intervention to collect debts. President Theodore Roosevelt promptly proclaimed the right of the United States to exercise an “international police power” to curb such “chronic wrongdoing.” As a result, U. S. Marines were sent into Santo Domingo in 1904, Nicaragua in 1911, and Haiti in 1915, ostensibly to keep the Europeans out. Other Latin American nations viewed these interventions with misgiving, and relations between the “great Colossus of the North” and its southern neighbors remained strained for many years.

In 1962, the Monroe Doctrine was invoked symbolically when the Soviet Union began to build missile-launching sites in Cuba. With the support of the Organization of American States, President John F. Kennedy threw a naval and air quarantine around the island. After several tense days, the Soviet Union agreed to withdraw the missiles and dismantle the sites. Subsequently, the United States dismantled several of its obsolete air and missile bases in Turkey.

(Information excerpted from Milestone Documents [Washington, DC: The National Archives and Records Administration, 1995] pp. 26–29.)



No, No. It's the MONROE LAW- Never ever mix business with pleasure!


Girls are less cooperative than boys. I agree.


Sweden is a relatively homogenous society while Colombia is not. People who are alike tend to work together better than those who are different. Think Japan or China.

India is the perfect example. Not only do they have 650 ethnic tribes but within those tribes many have divided themselves further by castes. Consequently, there is very little cooperation relative to other countries.

It would be interesting to compare the United States with Sweden.


Good morning. I would like to translate this publication , Could I?


I have a theory. It's likely to get me killed. But here goes....

Women are just as smart as men. Women live longer. They are just as well-educated. Etc. Yet women do not "rule the world." Why?

I have long believed that it is because women do not cooperate with each other as well as men cooperate with each other. While men form networks with each other in the workplace, many women in the workplace take a more competitive/adversarial approach to each other...even if polished over with smiles and diplomacy. Yet these same women might get along quite well with the men!

I don't know if this is some evolutionary drive playing out or what, but I've broached this to professional women and they acknowledge this extra layer of competitiveness between women.

For whatever reason, I don't think that women get along with other women as well as men get along with other men. I can walk up to complete strangers and say to the man, "I'm glad that baby got it's mother's looks and not yours," and he'll smile--AND AGREE! Imagine what would happen if a woman said the opposite to a woman!!!!!



The Apocalypse

The Rapture

The End of Life As We Know It.

Now, I admit that I'm very likely painting with too broad of a brush. But I have noticed this over and over--women work better with men than they do with each other. And men work better with men than they do with women.

I'm not writing this to stir things up. It is just something I've noticed in my years in the Fortune 25 world. I am specifically addressing big business situations, but perhaps it even carries over to the more parochial level.

Anyone notice the same thing...or do I stand in need of correction?



I agree. Its about the ability to compartmentalize. Men are better at thinking "I don't personally like this person but we can work together towards a common goal in the short term". Women are more likely to think "I don't like this person, I'm not going to work with him/her, although I'm socially obligated to act nice so I don't want to get marginalized". An evolutionary biologist (which I'm not) might point out that women have a higher commitment in regards to reproduction and a shorter time line to reproduce so their choices have to be absolute whereas men can make more mistakes and have enough time to make up for them.

social theorist

No, no steve. Men are not better at thinking. Women have learned to keep their real thoughts to themselves for fear of retaliation. It is men who generally act out of self interest and women who commit to long-term goals and have the strength to carry them out. We (unlike you) generally have learned about death when we give birth- as there is that potential built right into our very biological system. And yes, I guess you knew this was the score before you asked for a real account. So I guess, men have the potential for becoming equally capable of the work of women. Great job!

See Robyn Ann Goldstein, Recalling Sociology, Rethinking Social science. 2003 or in print. And forthcoming. No two words of this text may be used without the authors permission.