Sta Hungry Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

Reciprocity, a human tool?

Since several days, I’ve been wondering if reciprocity is a fundamental principle. Wikipedia argues that it is “a fundamental principle in social psychology”. Hence, only for humans. In my view, reciprocity also applies to primates and probably to other lifeforms. After some reflection, I made this diagram.


Lines 2, 3 and 4 are (probably) derivatives of line 1: Balance & Symmetry, a fundamental principle. Also see my 2023 blog: Theory of Everything (3); see its 7 pillars (below).

In my view, reciprocity and symbiosis mirror each other. However, symbiosis is mostly positive while human reciprocity also includes negativity (eg, revenge & retaliation).

The Decision Lab makes an interesting point in its article on reciprocity: “There is not yet a conclusive way of organizing the several forms of reciprocity, leaving just one thing to be true – that reciprocity is a universal and fundamental trait used to strengthen relationships.” Note: markings by LO.

Wikipedia has another important point: “Reciprocity is a crucial aspect of how people interact and live in society but researchers who study these interactions have often overlooked its importance (Molm, 2010).” Note LO: I replaced a footnote by an URL in this quote.

An article in MasterClass argues that there are 3 types of reciprocity in relationships:

  1. Generalized reciprocity: Like altruism, generalized reciprocity is giving freely without expecting anything specific in return aside from general goodwill. Generalized reciprocity harbors a sense of mutual respect and connectedness. These reciprocal relationships are common with people you love and trust deeply, including friends, family members, romantic partners, and other loved ones.
  2. Balanced reciprocity: A situational form of reciprocity, balanced reciprocity is the act of giving something and expecting a specific (and roughly equivalent) outcome in return as repayment. For example, you may give a birthday gift expecting one in return on your birthday.
  3. Negative reciprocity: The least equitable form of reciprocity, negative reciprocity is the act of giving minimally only to receive something (usually of greater value) in return. It does not have a place in healthy romantic relationships.”

Note LO: I have reordered the former alphabetical order in this quote in order to show how relationships (often) develop in time from positive (altruism) towards negative (self-interest)

“Love is never wasted, for its value does not rest on reciprocity.”

A quote by British writer C.S. Lewis (1898-1963)

Reciprocity (2021) by Susan Carol
facebook, instagram, lyrics, Tumblr, video, no Wikipedia

[Verse]
I always do all these things for you
But you can’t ever even seem to do
The simple things that make me feel like I’m wanted, or needed

Note: all markings (bolditalicunderlining) by LO unless in quotes or stated otherwise.

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