Download Citation on ResearchGate | The Norm Of Reciprocity: A Preliminary Article in American Sociological Review 25(2) · April with 1, Reads. DOI: / Cite this publication. Alvin Ward GOULDNER. Abstract. American sociologist Alvin Gouldner () was the. first to propose the existence of a universal, generalized. norm of reciprocity. He argued that almost all. (). More than four decades ago, Gouldner clarified the concept and its dimensions and assumed the existence of a universal norm of reciprocity in a.

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The norm of reciprocity requires that we repay in kind what another has done for us. Gouldnerr social norm of reciprocity often takes different forms in different areas of social life, or recoprocity different societies.

All of them, however, are distinct from related ideas such as gratitudethe Golden Ruleor mutual goodwill. See reciprocity social and political philosophy for an analysis of the concepts involved. The norm of reciprocity mirrors the concept of reciprocal altruism in evolutionary biology. However, evolutionary theory and therefore sociobiology was not well received by mainstream psychologists. This led to the revitalisation of reciprocal altruism underneath the new social psychological concept, norm of reciprocity.

Reciprocal altruism has been applied to various species, including humans, while mainstream psychologists use the norm of gouldneer to only explain humans.

An underlying norm of reciprocity is by itself a powerful engine for motivating, creating, sustaining, and regulating the cooperative behavior required for self-sustaining social organizations, controlling the damage done by the unscrupulous, and contributing to social system stability. The power and ubiquity of the norm of reciprocity can be used against the unwary, however, and is the basis for the success of many malicious confidence games.

Minor, usually less malicious examples are techniques used in advertising and other propaganda whereby a small gift of some kind is proffered with the expectation of producing a desire on the part of the recipient to reciprocate in some way, for example by purchasing a product, making a donation, or becoming more receptive to a line of argument. These minor examples include gifts of stickers and pens distributed by charities and flowers handed out by members of the Hare Krishna group.

A positive norm of reciprocity is “the embedded obligations created by exchanges of benefits or favours among individuals. The positive reciprocity norm is a common social expectation where a person who helps another person can expect positive feedback whether it’s in the form of a gift, a compliment, a loan, a job reference, etc.

The norm of reciprocity | Hein Lodewijkx –

In social psychology, positive reciprocity refers to responding to a positive action with another positive action rewarding kind actions.

This norm is so powerful, guldner allows the initial giver to ask for something in return for what was given rather than having to wait for a voluntary reciprocal act. In some cases, a person does not have to reciprocihy for the other person to return a favour because it’s already implied. Reciprocity also works at the level of liking; We like people who help us, and dislike those who ask for help but never return it.

Disapproval is often enough to make people comply with norm of reciprocity. In contrast to the positive noorm norm’, the negative reciprocity norm emphasizes the return of unfavourable treatment as an appropriate response to a misdeed. The principle of this norm serves as a gouldneg deterrent for violent or symbolic mistreatment in society.

Harming others invites anger and revenge, therefore people receiving negative treatment are likely to retaliate in an angry manner. Studies have shown, that individuals with a propensity towards anger might more strongly endorse the negative reciprocity norm as a justification for consummating their hostility by punishing the instigator of mistreatment Eisenberger, Lynch, Aselage and Rohdiek There are also contrasting ideas when it comes to the differentiation gouldneer negative and positive norms of reciprocity.


So there is a slight grey line between what could be considered a positive norm and a negative norm. But both of these reciprocity norms are mechanisms adapted by humans in order to keep a balance among man kind. The norm of reciprocity is usually internalised.

Another way to understand how the norm or reciprocity works is to understand that the initial favour and the following repayment always unfolds in a public way. Whatley and colleagues found that people will give more favors, like a higher donation, if it is a public condition.

Favours given are not immediately repaid and returning of favours may take a long time. First, the stakeholder is assembling, mobilizing, liquidating resources or assets so as to make a suitable repayment.

Second, it is a time period that the relevant party should not do harm to people who have given them benefits; people are morally constrained to demonstrate gratitude towards or maintain peace with their benefactors. As such, outstanding obligations can thus contribute to the stabilising of social systems by encouraging mutually beneficial exchange and cooperative behaviours.

The only “rough equivalence” of repayment aforementioned then suggests an important system-stabilising functions. The comparative indeterminancy then serves as a type of all-purpose moral cement; it keeps us mindful of our behaviours and induces cooperative action.

The norm of reciprocity also contributes to social stability even when there is a well-developed system of specific status duties; status duties shape behavior as the status occupant believe them binding in their own right; they are expected to faithfully fulfill their responsibilities. Nonetheless, the general norm of reciprocity offers another source of motivation and moral sanction for conforming with specific status obligations; if other people have been fulfilling their status responsibilities to you, you then have a second-order obligation to fulfill your status responsibilities to them as well.

The feeling of gratitude reinforces that of rectitude and contributes to conformity, thus social stability. Perceived organizational support POS and perceived psychological contract violation PPCV are the two most common measures of the reciprocity norm in organizational research. Hekman and colleagues found that professional employees, such as doctors and lawyers, are most likely to repay POS with better performance when they have high levels of organizational identification combined with low levels of professional identification.

Professional employees are most forgiving of PPCV when they have high levels of organizational identification combined with low levels of professional identification. The norms of reciprocity in interactions among employees underlie Adam Grant ‘s distinction between “giver cultures” and “taker cultures” as two end-points of a scale, with “matcher cultures” in between.

Thus, the norm of reciprocity ultimately has survival value. The norm of reciprocity is reciprocal altruisma concept coined by the evolutionary biologist Robert Trivers. However, the rise of sociobiology was not well received by mainstream psychologists.

It is therefore not surprising that the stigma of the evolutionary theory led reciprocal altruism to be revitalised underneath the name “norm of reciprocity”.

The norm of reciprocity is arguably less scientifically advanced than reciprocal altruism, due to the degree of research underneath the name “reciprocal altruism” as opposed to the name “norm of reciprocity”. Developmental psychologists have studied the norm of reciprocity and the development of this norm in children.

Psychologists have found that children begin to show the reciprocal behavior around the age of two, when they observe the behavior of others and begin to have their own relationships with peers. One way that psychologists have been able to study the norm of reciprocity in children is by observing and experimenting on their toy sharing behaviour.


Olson and Elizabeth S. Spelke conducted an experiment is which they used dolls to represent family members and friends and gave the child various items to distribute to the dolls after a series of situations were explained to the child. These situations represented private and public reciprocity and gave the child the choice of which dolls to share the items with. An example of a situation involves one of the dolls sharing with the rest of them.

Olson and Spelke found that children will give to family and friends more than strangers, repay those who shared with them, and reward those who share with others, even if they do not receive the item. During the later part of middle childhood 9—11 years and beyond, children’s friendship is based on the reciprocity of behaviour that suggests a mutually cooperative principle of exchange as well as an appreciation of reciprocity.

A study was done in that consisted of MBA students enrolled in a part-time MBA program at a business school, in the north east of the United States Chen, The study consisted of two parts, the first part was to complete a series of self perception questions, which included the measure of the relational-self orientation Chen, The second part was to complete a work relationship exercise during a class session 6 weeks later than the first task.

They were then told that they worked hard on the recilrocity together with a colleague, and made the same sort of effort and contribution to the project. They were then given the following options on how to divide the money: A Your colleague will make a proposal as to how the money should be divided. B If you accept the proposal, then you will get what the colleague proposed to you.

However, if you reject it, then the money will return to the company for future reward considerations. Measures reciproccity calculated on how many people would reject the proposal or accept the proposal. And the results were positively and negatively skewed. Eeciprocity Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. How Internalized is the Norm of Reciprocity? Three processes of attitude change.

Science and practice 3rd ed. Scientific American, University of Chicago Press, p. Journal of Applied Psychology A review of the literature”. Gouldnsr Science Quarterly Academy of Management Journal Social Psychology 6th Edition. University of chicago Press.

The Evolution of Cooperation. London and New York: University of Chicago Press. Exchange and Power in Social Life. Reprinted, with a new introduction, New Brunswick: Why do we punish?

Deterrence and the just deserts recipprocity motives for punishment. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology83, To whom do positive norm of reciprocity apply? Effects of inequitable offer, relationship and relational-self orientation. Who takes the most revenge?

Norm of reciprocity

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