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Social Exchange Theory Essay

984 words - 4 pages

Social Exchange theory was created by George Homans in 1958. Since its publication as “Social Behavior as Exchange”, several other theorists like Peter Blau, Richard Emerson, John Thibaut, and Harold Kelley have contributed to the theory. Homans, as the founder of the theory, had it say that consists of a social exchange with rewards and costs between at least two people. Rewards are defined as objects that have a positive value and are sought out by individuals. Costs are defined as objects that have a negative value and are avoided by individuals. Rewards in regards to relationships are things like support, friendship, and acceptance, while costs are things like energy spent, time, and money. Essentially this theory states that every individual is trying to maximize their wins or their worth and end up with something that is more positive than negative. Worth equals rewards minus the costs and if that is a positive number then they are getting something of value. Any social exchange results in some sort of dependence on one another, if it ends with a positive outcome, it will drive a positive relationship and it will drive the two to continue working together. The worth determines the decisions the individuals will make in the future. Blau mentioned that, from his experience and education about microeconomics, that in this way human interactions were similar to those done in the marketplace. The one big difference between social exchange and exchange with the market is that social exchange is more varied and more flexible so they have no set exchange rate or value like what would be in place in the market. While the cost and benefits can be found in almost all aspects of life, Homans and company focuses in on the human aspect of it and how it affects relationships and how individuals decide in their relationships.
When an individual uses this cost-reward system, they have a certain method to go through before they make their decision. People are bound to pick the decision which yields the largest reward. If there are multiple decisions that amount to the same costs, such as two things taking the same amount of time, then they will pick the decision that has the most rewards. The same type of idea applies when there are two decisions of equal reward, the person will pick what has fewer costs so that they end up with a higher worth. If the immediate outcomes are equal then the individual will pick whichever option has a higher long-term outcome. The same works in reverse, if the long term outcomes are equal then the individual will pick the option with the better immediate outcome. When costs and rewards are equal individuals pick the option that is: the most socially approved, the most autonomous, the one that is most clear cut and defined in regards to the future, most secure, with a person who shares the most similar values and beliefs, or have the most financial gain. So now that the...

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