Reciprocity is probably the most debated of the evolutionary explanations for cooperation. Part of the confusion surrounding this debate stems from a failure to note that two different processes can result in reciprocity: partner control and partner choice. We suggest that the common observation that group-living animals direct their cooperative behaviours preferentially to those individuals from which they receive most cooperation is to be interpreted as the result of the sum of the two separate processes of partner control and partner choice. We review evidence that partner choice is the prevalent process in primates and propose explanations for this pattern. We make predictions that highlight the need for studies that separate the effects of partner control and partner choice in a broader variety of group-living taxa.