Reciprocity and reputation: a review of direct and indirect social information gathering

Journal of Mind and Behavior 37 (3-4):247-270 (2016)
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Direct reciprocity, indirect reciprocity, and reputation are important interrelated topics in the evolution of sociality. This non-mathematical review is a summary of each. Direct reciprocity (the positive kind) has a straightforward structure (e.g., "A rewards B, then rewards A") but the allocation might differ from the process that enabled it (e.g., whether it is true reciprocity or some form of mutualism). Indirect reciprocity (the positive kind) occurs when person (B) is rewarded by a third party (A) after doing a good deed towards somebody else (C) — with the structure "A observes B help C, therefore A helps B." Here too, the allocation differs from the process: if there is underlying cognition, then indirect reciprocity is based on some ability to keep track of the reputations of others (to remember that "B helped C"). Reputation is a kind of social impression based on typicality, derived from three channels of experience (direct encounters, bystander observation, and gossip). Although non-human animals cannot gossip verbally, they can eavesdrop on third parties and learn vicariously. This paper ends with a proposal to investigate the topic of social expertise as a model for understanding how animals understand and utilise observed information within their social groups.

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Yvan I. Russell
Middlesex University


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