The Reciprocity Instinct

Studies have shown that when test subjects are given a small gift of minimal value, they are statistically more likely to comply with subsequent requests made by the giver, even if the secondary request is significantly more valuable. For example: if the subject was given a free soft drink in the beginning of the evening, they were much more likely to buy raffle tickets from the person who gave them that drink, than were subjects who had not been offered anything. This principle also applies to non-physical gifts as well, such as time volunteered. Psychologists refer to this instinct as the reciprocity principle.

Among social species, reciprocity facilitates the distribution of effort and resources within a group, and provides a natural safety net. If a member of a pack or a tribe brings home food on a particular day, and they share that food with the other members, the reciprocity instinct ensures that they will be fed by others in the future. For over 300,000 years this was the primary form of exchange within human groups.

At the civilization scale, the reciprocity instinct has been hijacked in the form of debt based money aka fractional reserve banking; an economic paradigm that forces societies to perpetually increase consumption to stay afloat (the infinite growth paradigm).

The dollar’s loss of world reserve currency will catastrophic for many countries. However it will also open up opportunities to bring healthier models back to fill the void.

An example of this can be found in traditions where communities join together in collective work days helping one farm or house then rotating to the next. Barter or swap meets can operate alongside these traditions, as can local currencies.

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