Social Exchange Theory


Social Exchange Theory is a sociological theory that focuses on the transactions and interactions that occur between individuals in social relationships. It suggests that individuals rationally engage in these relationships in order to maximize their rewards and minimize their costs.

Main Concepts:

  1. Costs and Rewards:
  2. This concept refers to the positive and negative aspects or outcomes that individuals perceive within a social exchange. Costs may include efforts, sacrifices, or investments made in a relationship, while rewards can be emotional satisfaction, material gain, or social support received from the relationship.

  3. Comparison Level:
  4. The comparison level is an individual’s standard or expectation for the level of costs and rewards they anticipate in a given relationship. It is influenced by past experiences, cultural norms, and personal values. Individuals tend to evaluate their relationships based on whether the rewards they receive exceed their comparison level.

  5. Comparison Level for Alternatives:
  6. This concept refers to an individual’s assessment of the potential rewards and costs they would obtain if they were to leave their current relationship and enter an alternative one. If the comparison level for alternatives is higher than their current relationship, individuals may be more inclined to leave and pursue alternative options.

  7. Outcome and Satisfaction:
  8. The outcome of a social exchange is determined by subtracting the perceived costs from the perceived rewards. If the outcome is positive, individuals tend to feel satisfied with the relationship and are more likely to continue investing in it. Negative outcomes may lead to dissatisfaction and a decrease in commitment.

  9. Equity Theory:
  10. Equity theory is often used in conjunction with social exchange theory. It suggests that individuals strive for fairness and equality in their relationships. They compare their inputs (contributions) and outputs (rewards) to those of their partners. If the ratio is perceived as unequal, it may lead to feelings of inequity and strain in the relationship.