The effect of a favor on public and private compliance: How internalized is the norm of reciprocity?

Mark A. Whatley, J. Matthew Webster, Richard H. Smith, Adele Rhodes

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119 Scopus citations


The norm of reciprocity requires that we repay in kind what another has done for us. This study examined the degree that social (public) and internal (private) consequences of reciprocation helped to explain both the power and the prevalence of the norm. Participants were randomly assigned to conditions in which they were or were not given a small favor, and then were asked to comply with a request. Participants expected that the favor-doer would either know or not know whether they complied with the request. We found support for both public and private reasons for reciprocation, as the presence of a favor appeared to increase compliance in both public and private conditions. In addition, public compliance was greater than private compliance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)251-259
Number of pages9
JournalBasic and Applied Social Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1999

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Part of this research was supported by an internal, undergraduate creativity grant awarded to Adele Rhodes from the Undergradute Dean’s Office at the University of Kentucky.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Applied Psychology

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