Project leader: Lungelo Mlangeni

Full title: An Exploration of the Influence of Groups, Normative Scripts, and Status on the Levels of Group-based Reciprocation as well as the Evolution of Group-based Reciprocation in the Minimal Group Situation: Evidence from the Virtual Interaction Application Platform (VIAPPL)

Background: Most reciprocation and outcome interdependence research has investigated how features of the situational context – including intergroup dynamics, normative scripts, inequality, and patterns of outcome dependence – affect the levels or frequency of reciprocation. Very little research has studied how the interactional behaviours of individuals can influence reciprocation over time. The present research aims to study intergroup reciprocation in interactive contexts where resource allocation elicits responses from a social network.  Methods: Interactional data were collected in the lab using the VIAPPL platform which provides a virtual environment in which participants exchanged tokens over a series of rounds, under varied experimental conditions (e.g., individual vs group; equality vs inequality, and anonymity vs. identifiability). The programme R was used to code and analyse the dependences in the data over rounds, and to investigate the predictors of reciprocation and the conjunction of conditions promote reciprocation. Results: The results showed that, when individuals were in clearly distinguished groups, they reciprocated more to the in-group than to the outgroup. This was also true when Status and Norm Conditions were accounted for. It was however noted that the Norm Condition of fairness moderates in-group reciprocation somewhat while the norm of competition heightened it even further. In-group reciprocation strengthened over time. Status did not influence reciprocation. Conclusions: This study offers support for Yamagishi, Jin, and Kiyonari’s (1999) theory of Bounded Generalized Reciprocity. It also adds to the literature by illustrating how group-based reciprocation bias can evolve over time in a generalized context as well as how the norm of fairness can moderate in-group in-group reciprocation bias. Reciprocation evolved – with ingroup reciprocation becoming stronger – over time in the group context only, this suggest that there are special properties in this context that may not be present in other contexts.


Yamagishi, T., Jin, N., & Kiyonari, T. (1999). Bounded generalized reciprocity: Ingroup boasting and ingroup favoritism. Advances in group processes, 16(1), 161-197.