16 terms

Ch. 11: Social Exchange Theory

STUDY
PLAY
What is Social Exchange Theory?
Social Exchange theory looks at the economics of relationships; how people evaluate the costs and rewards of their current relationships.
SET: 'Costs' & 'Rewards'
-Costs: the negative aspects of a relationship such as: time invested, stress, energy, attention*
-Rewards: the positive aspects of a relationship such as fun, loyalty, companionship, attention
*items that are evaluated as costs at one point in a relationship could be viewed as rewards at a different point in time (& vice versa)
Who created Social Exchange Theory?
Thibaut & Kelley (1959). It states that an individual
What is the formula used in evaluating the overall value of a relationship is 'calculated'?
Worth=Rewards-Costs

-Negative costs are subtracted from positive rewards.
-When rewards exceed costs, the overall evaluation is positive.
-When costs exceed rewards, the overall evaluation is negative.
-The overall evaluation is seen as a predictor of the life of the relationship (outcome)- we keep positive & ditch the negative.
Different types of Exchange theories
Exchange Theory is more complex than just an evaluation of rewards and costs. Some look at economic exchanges (goods & services), while others look at the more intangible benefits (connections with others & trust)
-All have a common thread that ties them together" the mutual advancement in some way of both parties' self interest.
Assumptions of Social Exchange Theory about Human Nature
-Humans seek rewards and avoid punishments
-Human beings are rational: we use the cost/reward system to help guide subsequent behaviors.. BUT we also use rationalization to justify less-than-rational decisions after the fact, mostly as an attempt to feel better about our choices.
-The standards we use to evaluate costs and rewards differ from person to person and vary over time
Assumptions of Social Exchange Theory about the Nature of Relationships
-Relationships are interdependent: partners co-create the nature and outcome of a relationship, so its outcome isn't decided by one person
-Relational life is a process (learn as you go): past experiences inform future expectations and judgements.
Relationship Evaluation: Comparison Level (CL)
A subjective standard that represents what a person feels they should receive from a relationship. CL's vary from person to person and are often built from prior experience (satisfying)
Relationship Evaluation: Comparison Level for Alternatives (CLalt)
A subjective standard that represents the minimum level of rewards that a person will accept and still stay in a relationship and is compared to possible rewards from a different relationship or rewards available from being alone.
CLalt's are used as a stability measure.
Relationships are viewed as satisfying & stable when:
- Outcome > CL> CLalt
- Outcome > CLalt > CL
Relationships are viewed as satisfying and UNstable when:
- CLalt > Outcome > CL
Relationships are viewed as UNsatisfying and stable when:
- CL > Outcome > CLalt
Relationships are viewed as UNsatisfying and UNstable when:
- CLalt > CL > Outcome
- CL > CLalt > Outcome
'Exchange Patterns'
Exchange patterns help explain how people adjust their behavior in relationships in order to achieve interactional 'goals'
'Behavioral Sequences'
-A series of actions used to achieve set goals:
- Behavior control: the ability to change another person's behavior by changing your own.
- Fate control: the ability to affect the outcome of another person
- Power: the degree of dependence a person has on another for outcomes
Critiques of Social Exchange Theory
-Testability: central concepts are amorphous and therefore cannot truly be operationalized and tested
-Utility: too much emphasis is placed on cognitive processes without considering individual differences
- Scope: group exchanges receive little attention-- theory is too narrow
-Heurism: theory has been used to frame many studies in a variety of areas

Still uses the ideas of rewards and costs like social penetration, but the ideas of comparison levels and comparison level alternatives differ SET from SPT