Social Exchange Theory

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Back in high school while driving home on the school bus it collided head on with another vehicle. The bus’s large size seemed to have prevented any injury to the students and the bus driver, but the woman driving the other car was severely hurt as a result of the accident. Three of the older students immediately got off the bus to help this person. This example seems to elicit points from both the social exchange theory and the social norms theory.

According to social exchange theory, it could be argued that these three students helped this woman because they would not be able to live with themselves otherwise. In other words, they helped for the sake of their own self-worth, social approval, to increase their own self-image and to relieve their own personal distress (Myers, Spencer., 2006). The motives behind the behaviour of these students could be explained by both distress and empathy. It could be said that they helped to relieve their own distress about the situation, but also because they felt empathy towards the victim. The attributions for the response of these three students would be external because they saw the circumstances as being beyond the victim’s control and thus, they felt more sympathetic towards the victim (Myers, Spencer., 2006). For this example, although it could be explained by the social exchange theory, I feel that it is best defined by social norms theory.

As a result of this being an emergency situation and the victim being completely helpless, the social norms theory seems to provide a better explanation. The social-responsibility norm seems to fit really well to this situation because these three students helped a person who was clearly dependant and reciprocity was irrelevant (Myers, Spencer., 2006). The attributions for the responses would again be described as external because these students could see that the suffering this woman incurred was not due to her own negligence and she was not at fault. Thus, as defined by...
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