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My question is closely related to this Meta post about what drives individual participation in "community policing" on Stack Exchange sites (e.g. downvoting, voting to close, participating in review queues, etc.). This is also related to this question.

A few ideas I came up with why people might participate (and this list is not exhaustive by any means):

  • People are naturally biased towards being helpful to others
  • Gamification
  • If you have a lot of posts (questions, answers, etc.) you're essentially invested in the community, which gives you an incentive to "protect your investment" (so to speak)

Are there any more I'm missing?

What, then, tends to drive people not to participate? There are certainly a lot more people who have certain moderation abilities (the ability to downvote or vote to close, for example) than who actually exercise those privileges.

My other point of confusion is that it seems like a lot of the reasons I listed for people participating would seem to apply equally to people who are not participating. If you have a relatively high reputation (e.g. the requisite 3000 reputation required to be able to vote to close), presumably you're invested in the community too (and would therefore have the same incentive to participate as other people). So, if these actually explain the behavior, why don't they seem to "work" on most people?

Is there a game-theoretic (or other) explanation for what drives people to participate (or not participate)?

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    $\begingroup$ Interesting question! I love these meta-like questions on why SE works :) $\endgroup$ – Robin Kramer Mar 2 '17 at 9:04

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