The Emergence of Generalized Exchange by Indirect Reciprocity
One of the characteristics that differentiate human beings from other species is their tendency to help non-kin even when there is no expectation of future interactions. Most religions consider such altruistic behavior a virtue at the highest level. In a society, such behavior constitutes generalized exchange. However, from the perspectives of social exchange theory, rational choice theory, and evolutionary theory, the existence of generalized exchange is a theoretical puzzle. How can generalized exchange exist? How does generalized exchange emerge, and how is it maintained? Recently, research in evolutionary biology has demonstrated that indirect reciprocity is the principle that makes generalized exchange possible. The first part of this chapter reviews recent theoretical studies on generalized exchange and concludes with the current debate on whether or not “to regard the enemy’s friend as an enemy” is necessary in order to maintain generalized exchange. The remainder will introduce our first attempt to empirically examine whether people actually have such a tendency to evaluate others.
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