Reciprocal Interaction: Definition & Model

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  • 0:03 What Is Reciprocal…
  • 1:13 Reciprocal Interaction Model
  • 1:32 A Real-World Example
  • 2:46 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Tara Lehan

With a doctorate in marriage and family therapy and a certificate in measurement and statistics, Tara has taught social science courses to students of all levels.

In this lesson, you'll learn the definition of reciprocal interaction. You'll also review the associated model and apply the concept to a real-world example.

What Is Reciprocal Interaction?

Social scientists, like psychologists and sociologists, often are interested in the relationships between and among objects. For example, they might be interested in social exchanges between two or more individuals. They also might be interested in the relationship between an individual and his or her environment. In various areas of social science, such as child development and language learning, you might come across the term reciprocal interaction.

The word reciprocal means there is a mutual give and take between or among individuals or objects. That is, one individual or object is not solely dependent on the other; instead, they depend on each other. The word interaction means that there is an action or exchange between or among individuals or objects. So, taken together, reciprocal interaction refers to an exchange in which individuals or objects exhibit similar behavior, either at the same time or in a back-and-forth manner. This concept stems from the idea that relationships between two or more individuals or objects are bidirectional in nature, meaning that each one simultaneously influences, and is influenced by, the other.

Reciprocal Interaction Model

Reciprocal Interaction Diagram

As you can see in this model of reciprocal interaction, the arrow points from each person to the other. That is, each person both impacts and is impacted by the other person. In addition, their exchanges involve their engaging in similar behavior. Let's look at a real-world example to see this model in action.

A Real-World Example

Imagine you're a professional who works with individuals who have sustained traumatic brain injuries. You notice that some of them have better outcomes than others, despite having similar levels of impairment due to their injuries. After examining various factors that can affect recovery, you're unable to determine why there are such differences in outcomes.

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