Reciprocity can be described as a cooperative action conditioned on the cooperative actions of others, such that an individual’s own actions are either in response to, or anticipation of, other people’s treatment of the self. Central to theories about the evolution of cooperation, reciprocity allows for cooperative interactions between genetic strangers by offsetting immediate costs with the promise of future rewards. As a result, reciprocity can sustain cooperative behavior, even among groups of purely self-interested individuals.

Broadly, there are two forms of reciprocity: direct reciprocity and indirect reciprocity. Direct reciprocity (also referred to as reciprocal altruism) can be described as an exchange of cooperative actions between the same individuals over time, such that both parties benefit. Conversely, indirect reciprocity involves more than two individuals: One’s cooperative ...

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