Reciprocity DecayOpen Access

Reciprocity Decay

Our desire to give back wanes rapidly with time

When you give, you expect others to return the favor. However, reciprocity has a a very narrow window and will quickly disappear, leading to lost opportunity.

Chuan, Kessler & Milkman (2018). Field study of charitable giving reveals that reciprocity decays over time. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study

Setup

Setup

18,515 patients who had been admitted to a university hospital were subsequently mailed a request to donate to the hospital charity.

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Results

Results

The researchers found that requests delayed by about 30 days after each patient’s visit reduced the donation rate by 30%, falling ever further as the delay increased.

Study graph
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Chuan, Kessler & Milkman (2018). Field study of charitable giving reveals that reciprocity decays over time. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Key Takeaways

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Timing is everything.

There is a ‘goldilocks’ window of time within which kind acts will most likely be reciprocated:

• Not too quick: diners asked to review their experience when paying the bill should instead be prompted the next day and not at the table.
• And not too slow: try recalling a meal you had 3 months ago…

Takeaway image
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A small delay? Ask for less.

If you've waited too long for a reciprocal favor in return, make it easier. Provide a subtle reference to your past act of kindness, but instead of asking for a donation, ask for a share, perhaps combining with a Reward.

Takeaway image
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A large delay? Start afresh.

Life goes on and we quickly forget others' kindness, so for extreme delays, expect no response. Instead, create a Fresh Start with an easy re-entry to reciprocity: a new seasonal menu tasting invite for a restaurant, for instance. After the event, follow up with your request. It will likely be granted, such is our internal desire to rebalance things.

Takeaway image
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Takeaway image
Pairings

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Reciprocity Decay

Reciprocity Decay

Our desire to give back wanes rapidly with time

When you give, you expect others to return the favor. However, reciprocity has a a very narrow window and will quickly disappear, leading to lost opportunity.

The study

Setup

18,515 patients who had been admitted to a university hospital were subsequently mailed a request to donate to the hospital charity.

Results

The researchers found that requests delayed by about 30 days after each patient’s visit reduced the donation rate by 30%, falling ever further as the delay increased.

study graph
np_read_2490885_000000

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