Social Exchange Theory (Homans, Blau, Thibaut & Kelley)
Social Exchange Theory COM 452 Summer, 2010 General Assumptions of Social Exchange Theory If people define situations as real, they will be real in their consequences. (W.I. Thomas) Social facts do not have any inherent
meaning other than that which humans attribute to them. Reciprocity & Equity Theory Peter Blau (1964) Walster, Walster, & Berscheid (1978) Human behavior involves a subjective and interpretive interaction with others which attempts to exchange symbolic and non-symbolic rewards.
Individuals will continue to participate in social situations as long as they perceive that they derive equal benefits from their participation. Elements of Social Exchange Theory Thibaut & Kelley (1959) & Homans (1961)
Perceived profit = rewards costs (pp=r-c) We are all in relationships for profit. We leave relationships when we no longer perceive them as profitable or when the costs of staying outweigh the rewards. Self-interest (WIIFM) Seek fair outcomes, distributive justice, and equity Alter own behavior or seek to alter others behavior to achieve desired outcomes
Exchange of resources via transactions Perceived Profit What individuals perceive they are profiting by being in the relationship (may or may not be reality) Different and unique for each person Can be extremely high or close to no
profit As long as both parties view the relationship as profitable, the relationship can endure. Rewards What we give each other in relationships What things do you get out of your relationships that you highly value?
He does the dishes every night after dinner He buys me expensive jewelry She does the laundry & irons my shirts She writes me love notes and slips them in my briefcase He gives me foot rubs after a stressful day 4 Types of Rewards
Cash Goods Services Sentiments Reward Problematics Reward Deprivation occurs when there is a type of reward one perceives a great need for but are not getting (and literally crave that reward). An individual may even leave the relationship and/or cheat to get what they
perceive they need. Reward Satiation occurs when one receives too much of a good thing and a particular reward comes to have little value, even if it was once important. Costs
Inherent (actual) time, money, energy Psychological stress of giving the reward Rewards Foregone what one gives up in order to give another a reward Principle of Reward The more often a particular action of a person is rewarded, the more likely the person is to perform that action.
Principle of Experience If an individuals action has been rewarded in the past, then the individual will enact the same action in circumstances similar to the one in which the previous action was rewarded. Principle of Value of Outcome The more a person values the result
of an action, the more likely s/he is to perform that action. Principle of Diminishing Returns The more often in the recent past a person has received a particular reward, the less valuable any further unit of that becomes. Reward Satiation
Principle of Distributive Justice When an action does not produce an expected reward, or causes unexpected punishment, a person will feel cheated and is likely to engage in punitive actions. When an action produces an unexpected reward, or when it does not produce expected punishment, a person ingratiated or obligated will likely engage in approving behavior.
Principle of Rationality ln any decision situation, a person will choose that action for which, as perceived by him/her at the time, the value of the result multiplied by the probability of getting the result, is the greatest. Principle of Least Interest Willard Waller (1951)
The person who has the least interest in continuing the relationship is able to control the relationship and exploit the other partner. In studying college dating: Men financial & emotional investment for physical affection Women sexual investment to gain attention and commitment Relational Implications
All other things being equal, the greater an individuals satisfaction with his/her current relationship, the less likely s/he is to leave the relationship. Regardless of the degree of relational satisfaction, an individual will choose to remain in a relationship if the perceived outcome of the current relationship exceeds the perceived outcomes of the alternative relationship. Achieving Balance
Individuals will often endure what seems like extreme costs if they perceive future payoffs. Individuals seek to create ultimate exchanges in which both people feel they are profiting highly but experiencing little, if any, costs. Obligation can occur when exchanges are uneven and a sense of indebtedness is created.
When couples struggle, it is seldom simply over who does what. Far more often, it is over the giving and receiving of gratitude (Hochschild, 1989). Comparison Level (CL) Ones CL is the general standard for evaluating interaction outcomes. Anytime we perceive the outcome (REWARD-COSTS) is above our CL, we are relatively happy or satisfied with the outcome. Anytime the perceived outcome is below our CL, we are
relatively unhappy or dissatisfied with the outcome. Comparison Level of Alternatives (Clalt) Ones Clalt is the best outcomes available outside of our current relationship or situation. As more attractive outside possibilities become available, and existing outcomes slide below our CL, instability and change increase.
So why leave? And why find someone new? In relationships characterized by dissatisfaction, an individual will choose to leave a relationship, and enter into a new relationship if the perceived outcomes of the current relationship is less than the perceived outcomes of the new relationship.
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