Social exchange theory proposes that social behaviour is that the results of an exchange process. the aim of this exchange is to maximise benefits and minimise costs. consistent with this theory, developed by sociologist George Homans, people weigh the potential benefits and risks of social relationships. When the risks outweigh the rewards, people will terminate or abandon that relationship.
Most relationships are made from a particular amount of give-and-take, but this doesn’t mean that they’re always equal. Social exchange suggests that it’s the valuing of the benefits and costs of every relationship that determine whether or not we elect to continue a social association.
Costs vs. Benefits
Costs involve things that you simply see as negatives like having to place money, time, and energy into a relationship. for instance , if you’ve got a lover that always has got to borrow money from you, then this is able to be seen as a high cost.
The benefits are things that you simply get out of the connection like fun, friendship, companionship, and social support. Your friend could be a touch of a freeloader, but bring tons of fun and excitement to your life. As you’re determining the worth of the friendship, you would possibly decide that the advantages outweigh the potential costs.
Social exchange theory suggests that we essentially take the advantages and subtract the prices so as to work out what proportion a relationship is worth. Positive relationships are those during which the advantages outweigh the prices while negative relationships occur when the prices are greater than the advantages .
Expectations and Comparison Levels
Cost-benefit analysis plays a serious role within the social exchange process, but so do expectations. As people weigh benefits against the prices , they are doing so by establishing a comparison level that’s often influenced by past experiences. If you’ve got always had poor friendships, your comparison levels at the beginning of a relationship are going to be less than an individual who has always had supportive and caring friends.
For example, if your previous romantic partner showered you with displays of affection, your comparison level for your next relationship goes to be quite high when it involves affection. If your next romantic partner tends to be more reserved and fewer emotional, that person won’t qualify to your expectations.
Evaluating the Alternatives
Another aspect of the social exchange process involves watching the possible alternatives. After analyzing the prices and benefits and contrasting these against your comparison levels, you would possibly start to seem at possible alternatives.
The relationship won’t qualify to your comparison levels, but as you survey the potential alternatives, you would possibly determine that the connection remains better than anything that’s available. As a result, you would possibly return and reassess the connection in terms of what may now be a somewhat lower comparison level.
The Honeymoon Phase
The length of a friendship or romance also can play a task within the social exchange process. During the first weeks or months of a relationship, often mentioned because the “honeymoon phase,” people are more likely to ignore the social exchange balance. Things that might normally be viewed as high cost are dismissed, ignored, or minimised, while potential benefits are often exaggerated.
When this honeymoon period finally involves an end, there’ll often be a gradual evaluation of the exchange balance. Downsides will become more apparent and benefits will start to be seen more realistically. This re-calibration of the exchange balance may additionally cause the termination of the connection if the balance is tipped too far toward the negative side.
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