Return Timing of Favors

The return timing of a favor is important to take into account in terms of reciprocity, because it defines how much someone else values a favor or gift from you with time.

Underlying Psychology/Biases

This is a type of memory editing bias. With time, we start to forget about elements of certain people, or like them less, and due to that, by association, we also value less favors they’ve done. Due to ego, with time, we also value more favors we’ve done for others.


  • When you make a favor, ask for something in return soon, while their valuing of the favor is still high;
  • When someone has done you a favor, tryo to settle the tab as soon as possible, while there is still no memory interference;


  • “It wasn’t that good”
    • Let’s say you start liking old friends less due to falling out, so you start underestimating what they have done for you over time;
  • “It wasn’t that important”
    • Because you don’t remember a favor that someone did for you back in the day, you start considering it must not be that important, or you would remember;
  • “Anyone could do it”
    • If you start disliking someone, you start to believe that anyone could have done what they have done for you, because you just want to like them less;

Commercial/Known Uses

Key Takeaways

  • Rebalancing the value of favors is a type of memory editing.We decrease the value of favors done to us and increase the value of favors we’ve done to others;
  • It goes both ways. We both increase the perceived value of favors we’ve done, but also decrease the perceived value of favors done to us;
  • Not just time contributes to this, but also emotional factors. If you start disliking someone for some reason, all that they’ve done for you is immediately compromised to some extent;