Social Exchange Theory Applied

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Excursus on Love

Love is the polar case of intrinsc attraction. Love appears to make

human beings unselfish because they enjoy giving pleasure to people they love.

Generally, this devotion actually rests on the aim to maintain the other person's

love. Exchange processes occur in love relations. It differs from social

associations of extrinsic significance in that rewards are exchanged because the

are means to produce the ultimate reward of intrinsic attraction. In other social

associations, exchange of specific rewards is its very objective. In love relations,

rewarding the partner is due to the need to express and to confirm commitment to

the association, not to the expectation of rewards.

During the early stages of falling in love, each partner hides his/her true

feelings due to fears of rejection and dependence. This concealment, together

with increasing dependence on each other, causes frustration. Here, dependence

on each other is tested. This threatens the survival of the relationship. Individuals

are compelled to express sufficient commitment in order to save the relationship.

When one of them is not yet ready to commit the conflict may terminate the


Human beings derive pleasure from sacrificing for those they love. After

having sacrificed for a loved one and repeatedly rewarded for it by increasing

attachment from the other, giving pleasure eventually seems to be intrinsically

gratifying. Favors and presents, being signs of love, may stimulate one's affection

for the other and vice-versa. One may encourage more gifts and favors not

because of the material benefits themselves but because of the need to foster the

other's love for him/her.

As the feeling of love increases, so does the need to please the other.

The individual with less involvement in the relationship gains more in the

association since the other's concern with the continuance of the relationship

makes him/her dependent and thus, giving the less involved more power. This

said power may lead to exploitation of the other. A common manifestation of the

said principle is that the individual with stronger affection for the other must yield

to the other's wishes and exert effort in order to please the partner. Therefore, the

individual with less affection gains advantages in the said relationship. Such an

imbalance of power and extrinsic rewards is often the source and remains the

basis of lasting reciprocal love attachments.

There is a dilemma to consider here. The ease with which an individual

obtains the reward of the other's love tneds to depreciate its value for him. A

woman/man promotes another's love by granting him/her sexual and other favors,

as demonstrations of his/her affection and as means for making associating with

him/her outstandingly rewarding for the other, yet if he/she easily dispenses such

favors readily, he/she depreciates their value and their power to arouse an

enduring attachment. Therefore, there should be restraint. To safegurad the value

of one's affection for the other, he/she must avoid being too showy or too

expressive. He/she mus make any evidence of his/her growing affection difficult to

obtain. The point made is that an individual's love depends on a) rewarding

experiences; and b) the value ge/she places on these rewards. The degree of

difficulty in obtaining expressions of affection affects their value. An individual who

refrains from showing such expression increases the value of these expressions

when they are manifested. Lovers, then, are under pressure to express affection

for one another as well as under pressure to withhold expressions of affection.

Commitments must then be kept abreast for a love relation to develop

into a lasting mutual attachment. If one is more involved...
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