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Prosocial behavior is paradoxical because it often entails a cost to one’s own welfare to benefit others. Theoretical models suggest that prosociality is driven by several forms of reciprocity. Although we know a great deal about how each of these forms operates in isolation, they are rarely isolated in the real world. Rather, the topological features of human social networks are such that people are often confronted with multiple types of reciprocity simultaneously. Does our current understanding of human prosociality break down if we account for the fact that the various forms of reciprocity tend to co-occur in nature? Results of a large experiment show that each basis of human reciprocity is remarkably robust to the presence of other bases. This lends strong support to existing models of prosociality and puts theory and research on firmer ground in explaining the high levels of prosociality observed in human social networks.

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© 2020 The Authors, some rights reserved; exclusive licensee American Association for the Advancement of Science. No claim to original U.S. Government Works. Distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial License 4.0 (CC BY-NC).

APA Citation

Melamed, D., Simpson, B., & Abernathy, J. (2020). The robustness of reciprocity: Experimental evidence that each form of reciprocity is robust to the presence of other forms of reciprocity. Science Advances, 6(23), eaba0504.

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