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Reciprocation: The Old Give and Take… and Take

There is an obligation to give, an obligation to receive, and an obligation to repay.

The rule of reciprocation describes a human phenomenon where we try to repay, in kind, what another person has given us. This rule is often used in marketing to manipulate someone into compliance. This is seen when salespeople provide prospective customers with a small favor before making their request.

For example, the Hare Krishnas, a religious sect, hand out small gifts such as a flower before asking for donations. People who are given a flower are more likely to donate, as described by the rule of reciprocation. Many of these people dislike the Hare Krishnas; however, when they are given a gift, they feel obligated to donate.

A key aspect of the rule of reciprocation is that the original favor must be uninitiated, i.e., the person carrying out the favor must do so out of their own free will. Otherwise, the feeling of obligation will not be triggered in the second individual.

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