Friedrich Nietzsche said that a gift confers no rights. But he was wrong about this. In fact, gifts are exchanges that imply reciprocity, binding together giver and receiver in numerous ways.
Gift giving is an outward expression of a relationship and as with any relationship, it can either be enhancing or diminishing. The way in which the transaction is carried out is as important as the content of the gift itself.
Humans are cooperative by nature. We rely upon other people for our survival. One way that evolution has conspired to promote mutual interdependence is by building into our psyches a sense of gratitude and reciprocity. At its most fundamental level this is expressed in the attitude of ‘you scratch my back and I scratch yours.’ We take turns in coming to each other’s aid. I am willing to give you something, even sacrifice for you because I expect that when I need you, you will be there for me.
Motivations for the gift giving are complex. We give because we are generous or want to be thought of that way; we give because it makes us feel good to see others happy; we give because we care about someone’s welfare or about the welfare of the community as a whole; we give because of social pressure. Giving is a social act that ties us together for our mutual benefit.