Transfer of goods or services that, although regarded as voluntary by those involved, is part of expected social behaviour. First studied by Marcel Mauss, the gift-exchange cycle entails obligations to give, receive, and return, each phase being surrounded with sanctions and calculations involving prestige and the maintenance of social relations. Some sacrifices may be viewed as gifts to supernatural powers from which a return in the form of aid or approval is expected; and the transfer of women in marriage between kin groups usually involves social obligations similar to those found in gift exchange. See also potlatch.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
For the full entry on gift exchange, visit Britannica.com.
Seen & Heard
What made you look up gift exchange? Please tell us what you were reading, watching or discussing that led you here.