Indirect reciprocity : a field experiment
Title: Indirect reciprocity : a field experiment
Citation: PLoS ONE, 2016, Vol. 11, No.4, e0152076, OnlineOnly
Indirect reciprocity involves cooperative acts towards strangers, either in response to their kindness to third parties (downstream) or after receiving kindness from others oneself (upstream). It is considered to be important for the evolution of cooperative behavior amongst humans. Though it has been widely studied theoretically, the empirical evidence of indirect reciprocity has thus far been limited and based solely on behavior in laboratory experiments. We provide evidence from an online environment where members can repeatedly ask and offer services to each other, free of charge. For the purpose of this study we created several new member profiles, which differ only in terms of their serving history. We then sent out a large number of service requests to different members from all over the world. We observe that a service request is more likely to be rewarded for those with a profile history of offering the service (to third parties) in the past. This provides clear evidence of (downstream) indirect reciprocity. We find no support for upstream indirect reciprocity (in this case, rewarding the service request after having previously received the service from third parties), however. Our evidence of downstream indirect reciprocity cannot be attributed to reputational effects concerning one’s trustworthiness as a service user.
Received: 23 November 2015; Accepted: 7 March 2016; Published: 4 April 2016; This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Type of Access: openAccess
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