The Principle of Reciprocity

The Principle of Reciprocity

Social Psychology 301

The principle that I have chosen out of the six fundamental principles is reciprocity. ‘The application of reciprocity: Give what you want to receive” (Cialdini RB., 2001). So if you do something considered bad to someone then they will do the same in return. If you help someone out in a favor, then they will return the favor back to you. I have always believed that this principle is accurate. Usually I like to give back the same acts that were given to me. In middle school I will never forget the teacher writing on the board “You will reap what you sow” when she was going to be out of work for a few days. That quotes goes along with this principle, which I am a firm believer in. When we are providing reciprocation “when others do something for us, we feel obligated to do something for them” (Feenstra, J., 2013).

“When describing the principle of reciprocity, Dr. Robert Cialdini shares a case study in which a waiter’s tips increased by 3% when diners are given a mint, and 14% when they’re given two mints” (Fiorella, S., 2014). When customers receive something, whether it be something small or big it will make them respond in a more favorable manner. If a customer responds to an offer that is given, it is important that the authenticity goes hand-in-hand with reciprocity. Whether it be a hand written note accompanying the offer, a mint, or offering something that the customer can take advantage of at that time, all of these things show appreciation. This observation illustrates the principle of reciprocity because it allows customers to feel special.

The Cialdini’s principle of reciprocity also is something that is advertised in blogs. An example is “the Brian Dean’s website, Backlinko, Dean’s website is centered on his blog, which is single-mindedly focused on giving its readers tips, advice, and suggestions on how they can be more successful webmasters and SEO analysts” (Schenker, M., 2019). They offer free exclusive tips to people who use their email to sign up. Doing this will open up the door for people to sign up for training courses or contact him so they can receive consulting services. People will feel like they are getting the free tips and it will make some of them want to continue services with them.

A personal example for me would be when I was going to purchase a new vehicle. The salesman offered to enroll me a rewards program to get additional equipment for my new vehicle and a full tank of gas. I purchased the vehicle and then referred my friend that bought a new truck from him as well. The salesman then reached out to me and offered to fill up my gas tank again and a do free detail on my vehicle. A week later I had a nail in my tire, and even though it was not covered under my warranty the sales man got my tire patched free of charge. There was reciprocation back and forth a few times through out this deal. Doing things like this will definitely make me want to continue to do business at Chevrolet.

Psychology principles of persuasion are relevant. “For the past five decades, behavioral scientists have conducted experiments that shed considerable light on the way certain interactions lead people to concede, comply, or change” (Cialdini RB., 2001). In doing this it shows proof that persuasion works. The principles liking, reciprocity, social proof, consistency, authority, and scarcity all play important roles in the principles of persuasion. “They neatly codify our intuitive understanding of the ways people evaluate information and form decisions” (Cialdini RB., 2001). If a person is being treated the way they treat someone else, if something ends up being scarce, having power, allows people do to things the way that they have in the past, being able to stick to a group, or representing the image of something that makes people want to be like them are all things that go hand in hand when it comes to persuasion. People want to buy things or do certain things when they have these principles to go by.

The communicator comes in different forms such as being credible, having expertise, and being trustworthy. Messages from expert sources can be persuasive if the information comes from superbness and the source has accurate knowledge of it. Messages that are less persuasive seem to be from low quality sources. Trustworthiness is very important when a communicator is involved. According to the Social Psychology book, “If we perceive that the communicator is providing us with accurate information, we may not feel it necessary to carefully examine the message itself” (Feenstra, J., 2013). It is often said that if a person is attractive that the information received can be more persuasive. If we like someone we are more open to communicate with them and be open to what they have to say. It is very important on how the audience is receiving a message. If it is something that seems unreal then they will more than likely not be persuaded. For example, if someone is selling a product and they don’t know much about it than more than likely the target audience will not be persuaded to invest their time or money into it. It is all about the communication, expertise, and credibility in something.

I would have to say that a plan that I would use to intentionally enhance persuasiveness would be to use the elaboration likelihood model. I think that this model would work because it brings everything together. “When people are motivated and able to process a message, they will take more time to think about and evaluate the message” (Feenstra, J., 2013). If a message comes across to someone as strong then they will more than likely to respond with a good attitude. This then will cause behavior that will be mirroring the change. Messages that come across as weak will more than likely always cause a person to reject it. If one is able to elaborate on a message than the audience will be able to learn more and more than likely purchase.

There can be some ethical issues that can arise as well. A person can be too persuasive and an audience can be “bought” by it and in reality it not be all that it’s supposed to be cracked up to be. I say this because I have ran across things before that will relate to quick weight loss. I had a friend sell to me before and first off I purchased from her because she was a friend, second she came off as she had such increased energy and so on. I felt like it was what I was looking for, with weight loss and more energy to get me though the day. There were even pictures of before and after of people and their results from this ItWorks product. I did the wraps, the greens, and the daily vitamin and didn’t see any real difference. I was locked into a 3 month purchase plan. But now I am more cautious. I can use this insight moving forward because I will look for elaboration of a product, and research deeper. Being able to apply the elaboration likelihood model I will be able to evaluate what someone is saying and help me make better decisions.


Cialdini RB. Harnessing the science of persuasion. Harvard Business Review. 2001;(9).

Feenstra, J. (2013). Social psychology. Retrieved from

Fiorella, S. (2014, September 24). The Principle of Reciprocity and Influence Marketing. Retrieved from

Schenker, M. (2019, October 25). How to Use Cialdini’s 6 Principles of Persuasion to Boost Conversions. Retrieved from

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