Social Exchange Theory

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LaTisha Carr

Application Paper #2

October 17, 2008

Social Exchange Theory

Although the balance of exchange is not always equal, individuals in a relationship tend to give and take. As human beings, we look for good qualities in one another and tend to seek out more rewards than costs, and if costs exceed in the relationship we become displeased. While time and effort is put into a relationship, people begin to weigh and compare their costs and rewards to obtain their perception of the relationships value. With this perception, the outcome of the relationship will be predicted and both parties will decide weather to move forward or call a quits.

Like all other theories, many assumptions are found in the Social Exchange Theory (SET). Particularly dealing with human nature and the nature of relationships these assumptions claim that; 1.) Humans seek rewards and avoid punishments, 2.) Humans are rational beings, 3.) The standards that humans use to evaluate costs and rewards vary over time and from person to person, 4.) Relationships are interdependent, and 5.) Relational life is a process.

As explained by Michael Roloff, the first assumption of human nature assumes that people’s behaviors are motivated by an internal drive mechanism that leaves you with a pleasurable feeling when the drive is reduced. In this assumption it is explained that we as humans look to maximize our profits and rewards and minimize our losses and costs. In the second assumption stating that humans are rational beings, it is assumed that people will only use given information to weigh their costs and rewards and will then decide how to behave within the relationship. To conclude the assumptions of human nature, we look at the third assumption which presumes that different standards will apply to different people when determining a cost or reward. Everyone’s definition of a cost or reward is not the same and therefore exemplifies our diversity.

With assumption four and five...
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