Now, don't be insulted. Chimps are actually quite intelligent.
On Monday, I posed a question: Do you ever read someone's writing without expecting the writer to return the favor? And have you ever asked someone to read with no intention of reciprocating?
Most of you said you always offer to reciprocate, and that even if that reciprocation isn't immediate, the general assumption is that one good turn deserves another and it'll happen at some point.
As I was thinking of the rules of reciprocity for writers, I came across this interesting article about the concept of reciprocal altruism--the exchange of goods and services between individuals "such that one benefits from the act of the other, and then the other benefits in return." [Sigh. YES. I am a big nerd.] The article outlines three kinds of reciprocity found within the animal kingdom (and specifically, monkeys and apes).
Symmetry-based reciprocity--this one is the least demanding in terms of brain power. It happens as a result of mutual association (like family members ... or forum members). The similarity leads the involved individuals to behave similarly toward each other, and there's no scorekeeping. Capuchin monkeys do this. So do chimpanzees. So do writers in critique forums. We all do for each other.
Attitudinal reciprocity--this one is a step up in terms of thinking. Basically, your willingness to cooperate is influenced by the other person's recent attitude. If they've been stingy lately, you're not so willing to help. If they've been generous, well. That's different. But there's still not a lot of scorekeeping here, because it's based on social attitudes rather than a specific, value-based 1:1 relationship. Capuchins and chimps do this. As do crit groups. It is in our nature to reciprocate, but we start to notice if someone's not pulling his/her weight, and it affects our willingness to spend our time on that person.
Calculated reciprocity--ah, here we go with scorekeeping. Tit-for-tat, and it's specific to each pair. Like, one writer A owes you a crit because you read something of hers last month, but when it comes to writer C, you and he both know you owe him one. This is a pretty human thing to do, except: chimps do it, too. If Frederick Chimp grooms Lucinda Chimp in the morning, Lucinda's more likely to share her food with Frederick in the afternoon. But she's not more likely to share with Mortimer Chimp, who seems to think he can mooch off Lucinda without offering the appropriate reciprocal flea-removal services. But! Interestingly, if Mortimer gets off his a$$ and grooms for once, Lucinda's likely to notice it more than Frederick's daily toiling, and she will share more food with Mortimer that day. Except it only works in the short term, because Lucinda IS keeping score. If Mortimer doesn't de-flea-ify Lucinda tomorrow, he can fuhgeddaboudit.
It's possible none of that made any sense. Forgive me. It's been a long week.
Anyway, I think we all do that kind of scorekeeping. We notice when someone's not reciprocating, and we're less likely to go the extra mile for that person. It's true amongst writers, and it's true in daily life. We're not simple creatures, so it's NOT like tit-for-tat is the only thing that determines our behaviors, but it's certainly there.
How about you? Do you notice when someone's not pulling his/her weight as a crit-partner/beta-reader/casual reader? Have you ever said "no" to critting that person's work as a result?