What is Social Exchange Theory?

What is Social Exchange Theory?


To weigh the advantages and disadvantages of using cost-benefit analysis which examines how two parties socially engage in Psychological and Sociological ways is known as Social Exchange theory.

Social exchange theory is predicated on several fundamental beliefs about human nature and interpersonal relationships. The first presumption is that people generally want to be rewarded and stay away from punishment. Another premise is that people start interactions to make the most money at the lowest possible expense; this mindset is known as what’s in it for me. A third supposition is that people often weigh the costs and benefits before acting.

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Lastly, the theory assumes that people are aware of the fact that this payoff; will change over time and amongst individuals as well. Put differently, it’s a measure intended to ascertain the amount of work that a person puts out in a one-on-one connection. This theoretical framework describes how social support can be transferred between people in social connections and is called as social support model which is also social exchange theory. It suggests that social assistance is a useful resource that those in need can both give and receive from others.

History of Social Exchange Theory:

The American sociologist George Homans; 1958 paper Social Behavior as Exchange served as the inspiration for social exchange theory. Homans developed a paradigm based on behaviourism and elementary economics. Other research broadened the scope of Homans; foundational ideas in the years that followed. The foundation of social exchange theory is the idea that a cost-benefit analysis process is what establishes a relationship between two individuals. Put differently, it’s a measure intended to ascertain the amount of work that a person puts out in a one-on-one connection.

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Measuring the benefits and drawbacks of a relationship might yield information on how much effort someone is putting into the relationship. The theory is distinct in that it does not always use emotional measurements to gauge relationships. Instead, its methodical procedures use logic and mathematics to ascertain connection balance. In addition to measuring romantic relationships, the theory can also be used to assess how well a friendship is balanced.

How this Theory works

The central presumption of the theory—that no one size fits all—lays the groundwork for social exchange theory. Expectations are viewed on a sliding scale that varies based on an individual’s expectations as determined by comparison levels. An individual will frequently use their previous relationships as a benchmark for new ones if their personal relationship samples are established at a particular level.

For instance, a person’s expectations at the beginning of a new relationship will be lower than those of someone who has a close-knit group of friends if they enter it after a string of unsuccessful romantic relationships or bad friendships. On the other hand, if someone’s ex-girlfriend showered him with gifts and affection, he might anticipate the same things from his next partner.

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These expectation levels can frequently be used in conjunction with costs vs. benefits, another fundamental idea of the theory’s usefulness. This is arguably the most well-known use of the theory since it provides a give and take; meter that can be used to assess the potential effort that each partner is contributing to the relationship.

The things that someone would view as a drawback in a relationship are the costs; in this theory component. Costs might mount up quickly from a partner who routinely neglects to do household chores or from a friend who is always borrowing money. According to this notion, benefits are characteristics that a person may view as advantageous. There may be many advantages to having a friend who is always there to listen when things are tough or who consistently invites you out for a beer on Sunday afternoon.

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A valuable relationship will be as far away from the expense category as feasible, according to the notion. Human behaviour suggests that there will likely be some costs associated with a connection, but if there are enough favourable features to offset the negative ones, the costs are meaningless.

The Cost and Benefit of Social Exchange Theory

According to social exchange theory, we should calculate the value of a connection by deducting its costs from its benefits. Costs include things that you may view as undesirable, such as having to invest time, money, and energy in a relationship. For instance, it could be considered a high cost if a friend of yours consistently borrows money from you without paying it back. The things you gain from a relationship include enjoyment, camaraderie, friendship, and social support. Even though your friends can be a bit of a freeloader, they nevertheless add a lot of excitement and joy to your life. You may conclude that the advantages of the friendship outweigh its value. Positive relationships have more advantages than disadvantages. When there are more expenses than advantages in a connection, it is considered negative.

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Summing Up

According to the social exchange communication hypothesis, people communicate with others expecting their communication to be returned in like. It is a theory predicated on the notion that social conduct emerges from an exchange process. This idea holds that people balance the possible advantages and disadvantages of their social connections. They will end or leave the connection when the risks become too great for them to bear. The idea is founded on the idea that a cost-benefit analysis process is what forms a relationship between two individuals.

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