With tea leaves still steeping in its harbor, Boston is the cradle of American independence. Yet the students wending through its cobblestone streets are remarkably cooperative, finds a study in the March 7, 2008, issue of Science.

Put four Boston students—all strangers—in a game where they must distribute tokens among themselves using rules that reward both selfish and cooperative moves; allow them to punish each other by taking back tokens (albeit at a cost to themselves); and then watch the...

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