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The effect of perceived level of reciprocity on relationship processes: Prosocial personality and culture as moderators

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posted on 2023-01-18, 17:45 authored by Getrude C. Ah Gang Grace
Submission note: A thesis submitted in total fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy to the School of Psychological Science, Faculty of Science, Technology, and Engineering, La Trobe University, Bundoora.

Two studies gauged the effects of different levels of reciprocity on relationship perceptions and examined whether differences in prosocial personality and self-construal contributed to these perceptions in different cultures. In Study 1, participants reported their actual level of reciprocity (over-benefit, equitable, under-benefit) in a relationship with a close friend, whereas in Study 2, participants were randomly assigned to respond to scenarios in which levels of reciprocity were manipulated either with a close friend or a stranger. Study 1 examined friendship satisfaction, whereas Study 2 examined reactions to a specific interaction. In both, we predicted that perceptions of equity would increase positive outcomes compared to perceptions of inequity. We also examined potential moderators of this effect from the cultural psychology and relationships literature. There were 537 participants in Study 1 (282 Malaysians and 255 Australians) and 231 participants in Study 2 (103 South East Asians and 128 Australians). ANOVAs and hierarchical multiple regressions were used to analyse our survey data. Study 1 revealed that participants with equitable rather than inequitable relationships reported more positive outcomes. Similarly, Study 2 found that participants who imagined equity rather than inequity reported more positive outcomes. The pattern of moderation effects was inconsistent. For example, although over-benefit generally had more positive effects than under-benefit, in Study 1, Malaysians lower in interdependent self-construal reported less positive outcomes when over-benefited rather than equitable. Conversely, Australians higher in prosocial personality reported less positive outcomes when they were overbenefited rather than equitable. Study 2 revealed a number of higher level interactions, for example, Australians higher in independent self-construal and over-benefited reported more negative outcomes with a close friend than a stranger. Overall, both studies provided strong support for the basic tenets of equity theory. Yet, future research needs to follow-up on some interesting but isolated findings from our moderation analyses.


Center or Department

Faculty of Science, Technology, and Engineering. School of Psychological Science.

Thesis type

  • Ph. D.

Awarding institution

La Trobe University

Year Awarded


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