Positive and negative reciprocity 

Positive reciprocity and negative reciprocity are each based on a skewed idea of traded altruism. 

In balanced reciprocity, I might paint your house, and in return you might tile my kitchen. Deal done. 

But when I paint your kitchen, and you then book me expensive round the world tickets, I feel like the value is skewed. It’s uncomfortable. This is positive reciprocity. 

People generally like balanced reciprocity. 


Maybe, when a person works for a charity and put loads of effort into helping others, possibly they get the a benefit from positive reciprocity, by always feeling like they are “owed” good things. 

This feels to me like a sort of “cheating” getting a good feeling. It explains why I have always found charity do-gooders so unappealing. It seems like a basic psychological tactic to “feel good” rather than an authentic desire to help others. 

Anyway, I don’t like getting trapped in someone else’s positive reciprocity attempt. But how could I ever know whether they were genuine or “cheating”. Seems like I gotta suck this one up. 

Negative reciprocity on the other hand is when I wash your car, and you give me a gift of e.g. a marshmallow. Thinking the debt is reciprocated. 

I reckon humans are quite forgiving on negative reciprocity, and do some calculation as to what value the other person could spare (mentally or financially). 

However, when it feels like you were given less in value on purpose or without thought, it might feel like a bit of a rip off. Maybe it feels like you were taken for granted. 
Probably, the trick here is to not expect anything in return, so anything coughed up is a bonus. 

Above, I talked about the positive points that could follow from positive reciprocity. My guess is there are negative points that can follow from negative reciprocity: the more negative reciprocity is knowingly exercised by a perso , the more their psyche might feel it’s in debt and bad things are coming. 

If you kill someone likely you have some negative reciprocity bad juju. Maybe the only way to exorcise that pain is through inflicted pain on the self, balanced in the ledger as just deserveds. 

Inflicted pain under controlled circumstances like bdsm?

How about you take someone’s negative behaviour but you don’t retaliate. You don’t give them negative back to balance the ledger. This could be a way of storing “reciprocity points” and cheating the system again. Does it have the same effect as the do-gooders feeling they are net positive? I wonder if bdsm submissives are active in this space. 

All up getting trapped in any reciprocity ledger seems like it’s fraught. And relies on your policing or manipulating others. I wish to reject this system.


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