Social Exchange Theory

  • Created by: 0045253
  • Created on: 10-06-22 11:58
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  • Social Exchange Theory (Thibaut & Kelly, 1959)
    • Partners strive to maximise rewards, such as companionship or emotional support, and minimise costs such as stress and time commitments.
    • Comparison Level
      • Based on person’s idea of how much reward they deserve to receive in relationships. 
        • Depends on previous romantic experiences and cultural norms of what is expected from relationships
        • People maintain relationships if the Comparison Level is equal to, or better than, what they experienced in their previous relationships. 
    • Comparison level for alternatives
      • Concerns a person’s perception of whether other potential relationships (or staying on their own) would be more rewarding than being in their current relationship. 
      • According to Social Exchange Theory, people will maintain their current relationships as long as they find them more profitable than the alternatives
    • SAMPLING Stage
      • The costs and rewards of associating with others are explored.
    • BARGAINING Stage
      • Romantic partners negotiate rewards and costs.
    • COMMITMENT Stage
      • Sources of costs and rewards are more predictable. 
      • Partners are settled down. Rewards and costs are firmly established.
      • P - There is evidence support
        • E -  Sprecher (2001): found that the exchange variable most highly associated with relationship commitment was partners' comparison level for alternatives
          • E - Sprecher's study showed that the presence of alternatives was negatively correlated with both commitment and relationship satisfaction.
            • L - Shows important of profit in relationship maintenance.
      • P -  Has useful real-life application, for example, Integrated Behavioural Couples Therapy (IBCT)
        • E - 2/3 of couples that were treated using IBCT reported their relationships had significantly improved and were feeling happier as a result (Christensen et al, 2004)
          • E - IBCT works by increasing the proportion of positive exchanges in everyday interactions and decrease the proportion of negative interactions.
            • L - SET can be used to help distressed couples in real life.
      • P - A weakness is the SET is deterministic.
        • E - The SET is deterministic because it explains a relationship will breakdown if the costs outweigh the benefits.
          • E - However, this does not explain why people remain in abusive relationships.
            • L - Therefore, demonstrating that the SET cannot be applied to all relationships because it is deterministic and does not emphasise choice/control over relationships.
      • P - An alternative explanation to the SET is the equity theory.
        • E - The equity theory states if one partner perceives a relationship as unfair, however they're going to be dissatisfied with it regardless of whether they're over-benefitting or under-benefitting.
          • E - Research findings suggest that it's not a balance of rewards and costs, but rather perceived fairness of relationships, that keeps partners happy and committed to the relationship.
            • L - Therefore, demonstrating Equity Theory has more detail that the SET.


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