Unlike economic exchange, social exchange has no well-defined "value." It is based on the norm of reciprocity, in which giving and taking are to be repaid in equivalent measure. Although giving and taking are colloquially assumed to be equivalent actions, we demonstrate that they produce different patterns of reciprocity. In five experiments utilizing a dictator game, people reciprocated in like measure to apparently prosocial acts of giving, but reciprocated more selfishly to apparently antisocial acts of taking, even when the objective outcomes of the acts of giving and taking were identical. Additional results demonstrate that acts of giving in social exchanges are perceived as more generous than objectively identical acts of taking, that taking tends to escalate, and that the asymmetry in reciprocity is not due to gaining versus losing resources. Reciprocity appears to operate on an exchange rate that assigns value to the meaning of events, in a fashion that encourages prosocial exchanges.