The Principle of Reciprocity

Being human, we feel the need to repay favors given to us. It's our nature. A favor can trigger a feeling of indebtedness, and in effect, we develop a great need to relieve ourselves of the psychological burden of debt. To unload this burden, we become more than willing to return a favor almost larger than the one given us.

The Principle of Reciprocity states that if someone grants us favors, invited or uninvited, an overpowering need to repay that favor immediately blooms within the recipient of that favor. This human trait transcends all cultures and races.

Consider the following example: A child you don't know walks up and hands you a flower. It would be considered impolite to reject such a thoughtful action, so you take it. Shortly after, the child asks if you would like to buy a cookie for her girl scout class. Because you just received a "favor" from the child, saying no to her request would have been tough because it would go against natural cultural forces favoring reciprocation arrangements. You buy a boxful of cookies.

Notice how when someone smiles, you smile in return, or when someone compliments a personal characteristic, you return in kind? This is the power of reciprocation. A favor granted must be repaid.

How often have we received small gifts through the mail: small keys, greeting cards, personalized address labels usually attached with a note requesting for funds to a popular charity? Big organizations have discovered that by giving a small favor or gift, the recipient of the gift develops a more pressing need to repay the favor. Repaying the favor entails complying with the request. The rule of the principle is simple:

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