Recordkeeping Alters Economic History by Promoting Reciprocity
60 Pages Posted: 8 Nov 2007 Last revised: 22 May 2014
Date Written: November 7, 2007
We experimentally demonstrate a causal link between recordkeeping and reciprocal exchange. Recordkeeping improves memory of past interactions in a complex exchange environment, which promotes reputation formation and decision coordination. Economies with recordkeeping exhibit a beneficially altered economic history where the risks of exchanging with strangers are substantially lessened. Our findings are consistent with prior assertions that complex and extensive reciprocity requires sophisticated memory to store information on past transactions. We offer fresh insights on this research because we scientifically demonstrate that reciprocity can be extended by information storage external to the brain. This is consistent with the hypothesis suggested by the archaeological record that pre-historic transaction records and the invention of writing for recordkeeping facilitated increased scale and complexity in human interaction.
Keywords: Reciprocity, accounting, recordkeeping
JEL Classification: D00, D63, D80, M40, O12
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation