How does status ambiguity affect reciprocation in gift exchange? We argue that actors in an exchange relationship delay reciprocation as a means of subtly claiming dominance when relative status is ambiguous. Using a two-step link-tracing sample of gift exchange dyads from an online social network site in the early days of social media, we analyze the probability of two-way exchange dyads and the timing of reciprocation while accounting for the nested and autocorrelated data structure. The results support the predicted inverted-U shape relationship between the hazard of reciprocation and status difference. This pattern is strongest when actors lack common foci of interaction from which relative status could be gauged accurately. In addition, a higher status individual tends to delay reciprocation longer than a lower-status individual, a finding consistent with the status competition explanation.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Sociology and Political Science
- Social Sciences(all)