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Generalized Exchange and Social Dilemmas

Toshio Yamagishi and Karen S. Cook
Social Psychology Quarterly
Vol. 56, No. 4 (Dec., 1993), pp. 235-248
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2786661
Page Count: 14
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Generalized Exchange and Social Dilemmas
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Abstract

In generalized exchange, the rewards that an actor receives usually are not directly contingent on the resources provided by that actor; therefore free riding can occur. The actor can receive benefit without contributing. Scholars interested in generalized exchange systems have often overlooked this inherent free-riding problem and thus have been overoptimistic in concluding that generalized exchange promotes mutual trust and solidarity among the participants. A more complete understanding of generalized exchange requires that the underlying social dilemma in such situations be appreciated fully. This paper represents our initial efforts to bridge two research traditions-research on social exchange and research on social dilemmas. This synthesis also may be of value to cholars interested in social dilemmas. With few exceptions, research in this tradition often ignores the internal structure of the social contexts in which such dilemmas arise. We present the results of a series of experimental studies. The findings suggest that "network-generalized" exchange systems promote higher levels of participation (or cooperation) than do "group-generalized" exchange systems, regardless of the size of the network or group. In addition, mutual trust promotes a higher level of participation, especially in network-generalized exchange systems.

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