The Preference for Reciprocity in Congress
Research presented by Christian Fong, assistant professor of political science at University of Michigan.
Most researchers have assumed cooperation in Congress is sustained by the desire to secure future rewards and avoid future punishments, but a growing body of research shows that human beings are intrinsically motivated to reciprocate past kindness. However, there is no systematic evidence as to whether legislators bring this preference for reciprocity to Congress. Through an original survey experiment and observational studies of end-of-career behavior, Christian finds consistent evidence that legislators have an intrinsic preference for reciprocity. Moreover, legislators are aware that their colleagues have this preference, so it likely enters into their strategic calculations. This finding raises new questions for research in party discipline, partisan polarization, and interest group influence, and others.