Equity Theory and Social Exchange Theory Notes

George Homans—Exchange Theory-- developed the ideas of exchange theory, individuals make decisions on the basis of relative rewards (but not punishment) and costs. Argues for a dependence between individuals for satisfying needs. Distributive justice (comparison of the reward received to the perceived "just" share.). His concerns were primarily "behavioristic"

Learning Theory, --reward and punishment—reinforcement, etc.

Equity Theory—We seek balance in our lives, expect fairness,

From Walster, Walster, & Berscheid,

1. individuals will try to maximize their outcomes (reward-costs)

2. To avoid constant conflict & maximize group outcome, compromise is necessary.

(groups decide fair distribution, & reward and punish unfair members)

3. We become distressed when in inequitable relationships

4. the more distressed we are, the more we try to restore equity to eliminate stress.

Two ways to restore equity:

1. Altering actual equity—altering you or your partner’s gains.

2. Psychological equity—distort perception to believe there is equity.

Social Exchange Theory (adapted from Doug Martin, slides on the Internet)

Basic Premise: We tend to behave in a manner that allows us to minimize costs and maximize rewards. We seek a profit or at least equity as a result of their actions.

Key Concepts:

Basic Premise: Relationships: A relationship is an exchange of valued resources. stability of relationship is associated with equity inequity leads to problems that may result in the ending of a relationship humans are not likely to stay in relationships they perceive to be inequitable.

Principle of Reciprocity—expectation that an act that benefits another will be reciprocated at an equal level. Reciprocation develops trust/trustworthiness.

Specific Aspects of Social Penetration Process

(from Altman & Taylor, Social Penetration Process, 1973).

1. Social penetration processes proceed from superficial to intimate levels of exchange.

2. Interactions continue to occur and expand at the same levels of intimacy of exchange.

3. Continued interaction in already accessible areas is readily accomplished.

4. Social penetration processes move gradually to adjacent levels of intimacy.

5. The rate and level of social penetration varies as a function of interpersonal reward/cost characteristics. Both ratio and magnitude.

6. The rate of development of a relationship varies over time.

7. Central Memory (past), Evaluation (present), and Forecast (future) rewards and costs effect expectations and relational movement.

8. Reciprocity of exchange occurs within the context of other events and influences—it is a set of events, but not necessarily the cause.