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Reciprocity: different behavioural strategies, cognitive mechanisms and psychological processes

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Abstract

Reciprocity is probably one of the most debated theories in evolutionary research. After more than 40 years of research, some scientists conclude that reciprocity is an almost uniquely human trait mainly because it is cognitively demanding. Others, however, conclude that reciprocity is wide-spread and of great importance to many species. Yet, it is unclear how these species reciprocate, given its apparent cognitive complexity. Therefore, our aim was to unravel the psychological pro-cesses underlying reciprocity. By bringing together findings from studies investigating different aspects of reciprocity, we show that reciprocity is a rich concept with different behavioural strate-gies and cognitive mechanisms that require very different psychological processes. We reviewed evidence from three textbook examples, i.e. the Norway rat, common vampire bat and brown capuchin monkey and show that the species use different strategies and mechanisms to recipro-cate. We continue by examining the psychological processes of reciprocity. We show that the cog-nitive load varies between different forms of reciprocity. Several factors can lower the memory demands of reciprocity such as distinctiveness of encounters, memory of details and network size. Furthermore, there are different information operation systems in place, which also vary in their cognitive load due to assessing the number of encounters and the quality and quantity of help. We conclude that many species possess the psychological processes to show some form of reciprocity. Hence, reciprocity might be a widespread phenomenon that varies in terms of strategies and mechanisms.
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Details

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
JournalLearning and Behavior
VolumeFirst Online
Early online date1 Nov 2019
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 Nov 2019

    Research areas

  • Cooperation, Reciprocity, Cognition, Emotion, Norway rat, Vampire bat, Capuchin monkey

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