Reaching the Limits of Reciprocity in Favor Exchange: The Effects of Generous, Stingy, and Matched Favor Giving on Social Status

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Abstract

Group members gain social status via giving favors to others, but why and when they do so remain unclear in the literature. Building on social exchange theory and social status literature, we identify three types of favor giving among group members (generous, stingy, and matched) and propose that an affective mechanism (i.e., gratitude) and a cognitive mechanism (i.e., perceived competence) underlie the relationship between favor giving and status attainment. Specifically, generous/stingy favor giving has a linear relationship with status attainment through both gratitude and perceived competence, whereas matched favor giving has a curvilinear relationship with status attainment only through perceived competence. An experimental study and a field study lend support to our propositions. Our study complements the literature by offering a complete picture of how three types of favor giving among group members shape their social status in different ways.

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