Differential effects of pay-it-forward and direct-reciprocity on prosocial behavior

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This research conceptualizes the distinction between pay-it-forward and direct-reciprocity tendency from a construal level perspective, and examines such differences in three studies. Study 1 develops Pay-It-Forward Tendency scale and validates it in both the U.S. and India. Study 2 uses the scale to gather data from software engineers in both the U.S. and India, showing that Indian software professionals have a lower pay-it-forward (vs. direct-reciprocity) tendency, which in turn leads to more pay-it-forward behavior, whereas American software professionals have similar levels of pay-it-forward and direct-reciprocity tendency. Consistent with the construal level account, Study 3 shows that individuals high (vs. low) in direct-reciprocity have lower preferences for charitable causes with delayed (vs. immediate) impact, whereas those high and low in pay-it-forward show equal preferences for these causes. Similarly, donation intention-behavior consistency is positively related to pay-it-forward, but negatively associated with direct-reciprocity. Theoretical contributions and managerial implications of these findings are discussed.

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Journal of Business Research