When the ancient Romans wanted to be fair, they gave “quid pro quo”, literally “something for something”, meaning “a favor for a favor” or “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours”. Not that they were fair to everyone they met – just ask the other ancient peoples of Europe and the Middle East – but this particular expression stuck.
More importantly, the people of our time still feel the need to be fair and return favors. So much so that it can be used to manipulate us in various ways. I want to talk about that today. It also makes us do things we later regret, but I will talk about that next time.
To find out how this notion of fairness works, Psychology researchers went to a museum. They joined a tour, picked a person and started talking to them, then went away and returned with two cans of soft drink, one of which they offered that person, who had been a total stranger only 5 minutes earlier.
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