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Social exchange theory
Social exchange theory
SOCIAL EXCHANGE 
THEORY 
A psychological theory that attempts to 
explain the social factors that influence 
how individuals interact within a 
reciprocal relationship.
SOCIAL EXCHANGE 
THEORY 
The Basic formula for predicting 
behavior 
Behavior(profit) = reward of interaction – cost of interaction
The Main Idea 
Social exchange theorist explain that although 
individuals are constrained by role expectation. 
They act within each role to maximize the benefits 
they will receive and to minimize the cost to
THE MAJOR PROPONENTS 
THIBAUT KELLER EMERSON HOMAN BLAU
George C. Homans 
 Born in Boston, Massachusetts 
August 11, 1910 
 Homans entered Harvard College in 1928 
with an area of concentration in English 
and American literature. 
 In the 1930s he attended a faculty-student 
seminar at Harvard with Pareto. 
 In 1939 he became a Harvard faculty member, 
a lifelong affiliation in which he taught both 
sociology and medieval history. 
 In 1964 Homans was elected President of the 
 American Sociological Association.
Homans continued… 
 Homans’s work is divided into two phases 
 The first phase is considered inductive and the second 
phase is considered deductive. 
 Credited as the founder of behavioral sociology 
and the social exchange theory. 
 Other social exchange theorists: John Thibaut, 
Harold Kelley, Peter Blau. 
 Died in Cambridge, Massachusetts May 29, 
1989.
Social exchange theory
Link to Behavioral Psychology 
 Operant conditioning: the use of consequences 
to modify the occurrence and form of behavior. 
- Skinner and the pigeon experiment 
 “This kind of psychologist is not interested 
in how the behavior was learned: ‘learning 
theory’ is a poor name for his [Skinner’s] field. 
Instead, he is interested in what determines the rate of emission 
of learned behavior, whether pecks at a target or something else.” 
-Homans 
Sources: http://www.reference.com/search?q=operant%20conditioning
Operant Conditioning 
 Satiation: the rate of behavior falls off if the behavior is 
often reinforced. 
 When the pigeon is given much more corn each time it pecks, the less 
hungry it will become and the less it pecks. 
 Extinction: the rate of emission of behavior stops when 
it is not reinforced. 
 If the pecking is not reinforced with corn, eventually the pigeon will stop 
pecking. 
 Cost: aversive stimulation, results in a decrease in the 
emission of behavior. 
 Fatigue is an example of a “cost.” 
 Other examples: A Clockwork Orange, treatment for alcoholism
An Exchange Paradigm 
 Homans notes that Skinner’s pigeon experiment cannot really 
be an exchange since the behavior of the pigeon hardly 
determines the behavior the psychologist. 
 In the case of two men, however, where exchange is real and 
determination is equal, “each is emitting behavior reinforced to 
some degree by the behavior of the other.” 
 Smiling, nodding, furrowing of the brow, etc. 
 Talk show hosts 
 NOTE: The concern is not how each learned in the past the 
behavior he emits or the behavior he finds reinforcing. 
 Values: reinforcers; that which strengthens a response. 
 “As he emits behavior, each man may incur costs, and each 
man has more than one course of behavior open to him.”
An Exchange Paradigm 
“The problem is not, as it is 
often stated, merely, what 
a man’s values are, what 
he has learned in the past 
to find reinforcing, but how 
much of any one value his 
behavior is getting him 
now.” 
- Homans
Peter Michael Blau 
Son of a secular jew 
Hitler marched into vienna in 
1938. Peter’s family was 
elected to stay. 
Escaped from anschluss, 
miraculuos chance to go to 
college, 
A succesfull career and 
mobility in USA 
His family had been killed in 
Auschwtiz in 1942. 
1918 Vienna – Austria 
2002
Exchange and Power in Social Life 
 Homan was an important influence on Blau’s work 
 Blau was interested in examining the processes that 
guide face to face interaction 
 Blau argued that such interaction is shaped by a 
reciprocal exchange of rewards both tangible and 
intangible. 
 Blau maintaines Simmel’s assertation that every 
interaction can be understood as a form of exchange in 
which the participant gives the other “ more than he had 
himself possessed.” 
 He is interested in building a theoretical bridge that would 
link sociological studies of everyday interactions between 
individual and that examined the collective or structural
 “To speak of social life is to speak of the association 
between people- their associating in work and in 
play, in love and in war, to trade or to worship, to 
help or to hinder. It is in the social relations men 
establish that their interests find expression and 
desire become raelized.” 
 Peter M. Blau 
 Exchange and Power in Social life, 1964
JOHN THIBAUT AND HAROLD KELLY 
 John Thibaut was a social psychologist, one of the last 
graduate students of Kurt Lewin. He spent a number of 
years as a professor at the University of North Carolina at 
Chapel Hill, and was the first editor of the Journal of 
Experimental Social Psychology. 
 The research group which he headed at UNC was 
regularly attended by Harry Upshaw, Jack Brehm, Kurt 
Back, and Edward E. Jones. He is best known for "A 
Social Psychology of Groups", co-authored by his long-time 
collaborator Harold Kelley. 
 The examination of social exchange led John Thibaut 
and Harold Kelley to develop social exchange theory, a 
process which was facilitated by Thibaut spending a year 
at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral 
Sciences where he had significant interaction with 
Kenneth Arrow.
JOHN THIBAUT AND HAROLD KELLY 
 Harold Kelley (February 16, 1921 – January 29, 
2003) was an American social psychologist and 
professor of psychology at the University of 
California, Los Angeles. His major contributions have 
been the development of interdependence theory 
(with John Thibaut),the early work of attribution 
theory,and a lifelong interest in understanding close 
relationships processes.
JOHN THIBAUT AND HAROLD KELLY 
 In 1959 they 
Developed from earlier work by the likes of Kelley an 
d George Homans, this is based on the concept th 
at people try to maximise the rewards from a relati 
onship - eg: attention, affection - 
while minimising the costs - 
eg: time and effort, dealing with the other person's 
emotional problems. 
 Rewards received should at least equal rewards give 
n. 
 The concept tends to assume that people are const 
antly calculating costs and benefits in their relations 
hips.
Social exchange theory
RICHARD EMERSON 
 Emerson (1972a) adopted the language and principles of 
behavioral psychology to form a theory of social relations. 
However, he quickly moved beyond behavioral principles to 
the formation of more complex propositions regarding the 
emergence of various kinds of social structures. Here the 
theory picks up the Simmelian focus of Blau’s work as well as 
the concern with emergent properties and complex social 
structures. Emerson (1972b), like Blau (1964, 1986), viewed 
the major task of exchange theory as the creation of a 
framework in which the primary dependent variable is social 
structure and structural change. The major task was eminently 
sociological, not psychological, even though all three theorists 
explicitly encorporated into their thinking notions about the 
psychology of actors. Emerson and Cook’s subsequent work 
(e.g., Cook and Emerson 1978) adopted a more cognitive 
perspective on the actors involved in social exchange. Molm’s 
(1981, 1987) earlier work extended the original behavioral 
underpinnings of the theory.
RICHARD EMERSON 
 A key concept in Emerson’s exchange theory of 
power is the idea that exchange relations can be 
balanced or imbalanced. A power inequality results 
from an imbalance in power relations between two or 
more actors. An exchange relation is balanced if 
both parties are equally dependent on each other for 
exchange (or resources of value). If they are equally 
dependent, they have equal power. The central idea 
that power is based on dependence allows for the 
specification of ways in which dependencies are 
altered so that they affect the balance of power in 
the exchange relation and in networks of exchange 
relations.
Social Exchange Theory in relation to family 
 Social exchange theory can be used to explain why 
couples marry and divorce, have children, make 
major purchase decisions (houseand vehicles), or 
relocate the family to a new city. According to 
exchange theory, we as individuals are motivated out 
of self-interest and that we make decisions based on 
maximizing our rewards or profits and minimizing our 
costs. This is the main premise of social exchange 
theory.
Social Exchange Theory key assumptions 
1. Humans are rational beings. 
 Nye (1982) states that “within the limitations of the information 
that they [humans] possess and their ability to predict the future, 
they make the choices that will bring the most profit” (p.23). In 
other words, humans make rational/sensible decisions based on 
the amount of information available to them at that moment in 
time and that these decisions are made in order to receive the 
greatest rewards with the least amount of costs. 
A single mother may be presented with the opportunity for a promotion at work. 
She must make a rational decision, using the information available to her at that 
time, of whether or not to accept the new position. She will take into 
consideration the rewards (increased salary, new title, prestige) and the costs 
(additional child care costs, more time away from her children, increased work 
load and responsibilities) when making her decision. If she accepts the new 
position, she’s anticipating that the rewards will outweigh the costs.
Social Exchange Theory key assumptions 
2. Individuals must experience costs in order to obtain 
future rewards. 
 Nye (1979) explains this assumption as “all behavior is 
costly in that it requires expenditure of energy and 
preempts time that might otherwise produce other 
rewards” 
a student decides to begin studies towards a Masters degree. student will 
experience numerous costs during their studies such as: time and energy 
studying and attending class, additional expenses, and/or more time away from 
their family. However, in the long run, the ultimate reward of obtaining their 
Masters Degree will outweigh all of the costs. The student chooses to adapt to 
and cope with all of the costs associated with obtaining the advanced degree in 
order to achieve it.
Social Exchange Theory key assumptions 
3. “the standards that humans use to evaluate rewards 
and costs differ from person to person and can vary 
over the course of time” 
 Nye (1982) holds a similar assumption that“individuals 
vary in the value they place on the specific objects, 
experiences, relationships, andpositions” (p. 23). This 
contrast in the evaluation of rewards and costs may be 
attributed tocultural, religious, or economic differences 
between individuals. 
The rewards associated withobtaining a family pet may be perceived differently 
by different family members. One membermay view having a family dog as a 
reward for home security reasons while other members of thefamily may 
receive the reward of companionship from the pet
Social Exchange Theory key assumptions 
4. Social exchanges are regulated by the norm of 
reciprocity 
 Bagarozzi (1993) indicates that this assumption, “in the 
form of behavioral reciprocity, was adopted by 
behaviorists who hypothesized that satisfying marriages 
were those where high rates of positive reinforces and 
low rates of punishments were reciprocally exchanged 
between spouses” (p. 412). The above stated example 
is a very good description of the norm of reciprocity. 
The more an individual receives/experiences rewards 
the more they will reciprocate similar rewarding actions 
or rewards that are meaningful to the other person
Social Exchange Theory key assumptions 
5. individuals are motivated by self-interest 
 Klein and White (1996) indicate that “individuals are 
unilaterally motivated by self interest-individuals seek 
things and relationships they regard as beneficial for 
themselves” (p. 63). 
 Schaffer and Lia-Hoagberg (1994) note that “humans 
avoid relationships, interactions, and feeling states that 
are dissatisfying or costly and seek out situations and 
experiences that are gratifying, pleasurable, or 
rewarding” (p. 153). 
pregnant women will make choices whether or not to obtain 
prenatal care based on their perceptions of the rewards and costs 
they and their family will receive from the care.
Social Exchange Theory key concepts 
1. Rewards and Costs 
Kleinand White (1996) define rewards and costs as: a 
reward is anything that is perceived as beneficial to an 
actor’s interests…although costs may be negative 
rewards-things perceived as not beneficial to an actor’s 
self-interest-we should be careful to also include as implicit 
costs cases in which rewards are missed or forgone. (p. 
65) 
Nye (1982) adds to the descriptions of these two concepts 
and states that “in general, we can learnwhat is rewarding 
to people in society both by observing their behavior and 
by asking them whatthey like or do not like” (p. 14). We are 
also able to determine what is costly to an individual 
byfollowing the same process of observing behaviors and 
questioning the individual about their likesand dislikes.
Social Exchange Theory key concepts 
2. Profit or Maximizing utility 
 Profit, as described by Nye (1982), “can be determined in 
terms of rewards and punishments involved in a 
contemplated sequence of actions” (p. 15). Klein and 
White (1996) define profit in terms of a ratio of rewards to 
costs and that “actors rationally calculate this ratio for all 
possible choices in a situation and then choose the 
action they calculate will bring the greatest rewards or 
the least costs” (p. 66). Individuals will make decisions 
for themselves or their families based on the predicted 
amount of profit they will receive from the choice.
Social Exchange Theory key concepts 
3. Comparison Level (CL) and Comparison Level 
forAlternatives (CL+). 
 These concepts were developed by Thibaut and Kelley. 
Thibaut and Kelley (1959) defined Comparison Level as 
“a standard by which the person evaluates the rewards 
and costs of a given relationship in terms of what he feels 
he deserves” (p. 21). Klein and White(1996) further 
explain this concept as “the comparison (CL) of what 
others in your position have and how well you are doing 
relative to them” (p. 66). For example, a wife may 
compare the benefits of her marriage to other women 
who live in a similar marital environments. The concept of 
Comparison Level is slightly different from the concept of 
Comparison Level for Alternatives.
Social Exchange Theory key concepts 
3. Comparison Level (CL) and Comparison Level 
for Alternatives (CL+). 
 Comparison Level for Alternatives is explained by Klein 
and White (1996) as “how well you are doing relative to 
others outside of your position but in positions that supply 
an alternative choice” (p. 66). The wife may not only 
compare her benefits relative to women in other 
marriages, but she may also make an alternative 
comparison of the rewards of her current marriage to the 
possible rewards of being divorced or remarrying. The 
Comparison Level of Alternatives is very subjective. If the 
wife perceives that she will receive more benefits or 
rewards if she divorces her husband she is more likely to 
leave her current marriage.
Social Exchange Theory application in the family 
Social exchange theory has numerous applications to working 
with families. It was noted during a brief literature review that 
social exchange theory has been applied to the distribution 
of housework and child caring responsibilities, divorce, family 
violence, relationship satisfaction, decisions regarding 
prenatal care, and planning for marriage.

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Social exchange theory

  • 3. SOCIAL EXCHANGE THEORY A psychological theory that attempts to explain the social factors that influence how individuals interact within a reciprocal relationship.
  • 4. SOCIAL EXCHANGE THEORY The Basic formula for predicting behavior Behavior(profit) = reward of interaction – cost of interaction
  • 5. The Main Idea Social exchange theorist explain that although individuals are constrained by role expectation. They act within each role to maximize the benefits they will receive and to minimize the cost to
  • 6. THE MAJOR PROPONENTS THIBAUT KELLER EMERSON HOMAN BLAU
  • 7. George C. Homans  Born in Boston, Massachusetts August 11, 1910  Homans entered Harvard College in 1928 with an area of concentration in English and American literature.  In the 1930s he attended a faculty-student seminar at Harvard with Pareto.  In 1939 he became a Harvard faculty member, a lifelong affiliation in which he taught both sociology and medieval history.  In 1964 Homans was elected President of the  American Sociological Association.
  • 8. Homans continued…  Homans’s work is divided into two phases  The first phase is considered inductive and the second phase is considered deductive.  Credited as the founder of behavioral sociology and the social exchange theory.  Other social exchange theorists: John Thibaut, Harold Kelley, Peter Blau.  Died in Cambridge, Massachusetts May 29, 1989.
  • 10. Link to Behavioral Psychology  Operant conditioning: the use of consequences to modify the occurrence and form of behavior. - Skinner and the pigeon experiment  “This kind of psychologist is not interested in how the behavior was learned: ‘learning theory’ is a poor name for his [Skinner’s] field. Instead, he is interested in what determines the rate of emission of learned behavior, whether pecks at a target or something else.” -Homans Sources: http://www.reference.com/search?q=operant%20conditioning
  • 11. Operant Conditioning  Satiation: the rate of behavior falls off if the behavior is often reinforced.  When the pigeon is given much more corn each time it pecks, the less hungry it will become and the less it pecks.  Extinction: the rate of emission of behavior stops when it is not reinforced.  If the pecking is not reinforced with corn, eventually the pigeon will stop pecking.  Cost: aversive stimulation, results in a decrease in the emission of behavior.  Fatigue is an example of a “cost.”  Other examples: A Clockwork Orange, treatment for alcoholism
  • 12. An Exchange Paradigm  Homans notes that Skinner’s pigeon experiment cannot really be an exchange since the behavior of the pigeon hardly determines the behavior the psychologist.  In the case of two men, however, where exchange is real and determination is equal, “each is emitting behavior reinforced to some degree by the behavior of the other.”  Smiling, nodding, furrowing of the brow, etc.  Talk show hosts  NOTE: The concern is not how each learned in the past the behavior he emits or the behavior he finds reinforcing.  Values: reinforcers; that which strengthens a response.  “As he emits behavior, each man may incur costs, and each man has more than one course of behavior open to him.”
  • 13. An Exchange Paradigm “The problem is not, as it is often stated, merely, what a man’s values are, what he has learned in the past to find reinforcing, but how much of any one value his behavior is getting him now.” - Homans
  • 14. Peter Michael Blau Son of a secular jew Hitler marched into vienna in 1938. Peter’s family was elected to stay. Escaped from anschluss, miraculuos chance to go to college, A succesfull career and mobility in USA His family had been killed in Auschwtiz in 1942. 1918 Vienna – Austria 2002
  • 15. Exchange and Power in Social Life  Homan was an important influence on Blau’s work  Blau was interested in examining the processes that guide face to face interaction  Blau argued that such interaction is shaped by a reciprocal exchange of rewards both tangible and intangible.  Blau maintaines Simmel’s assertation that every interaction can be understood as a form of exchange in which the participant gives the other “ more than he had himself possessed.”  He is interested in building a theoretical bridge that would link sociological studies of everyday interactions between individual and that examined the collective or structural
  • 16.  “To speak of social life is to speak of the association between people- their associating in work and in play, in love and in war, to trade or to worship, to help or to hinder. It is in the social relations men establish that their interests find expression and desire become raelized.”  Peter M. Blau  Exchange and Power in Social life, 1964
  • 17. JOHN THIBAUT AND HAROLD KELLY  John Thibaut was a social psychologist, one of the last graduate students of Kurt Lewin. He spent a number of years as a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and was the first editor of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.  The research group which he headed at UNC was regularly attended by Harry Upshaw, Jack Brehm, Kurt Back, and Edward E. Jones. He is best known for "A Social Psychology of Groups", co-authored by his long-time collaborator Harold Kelley.  The examination of social exchange led John Thibaut and Harold Kelley to develop social exchange theory, a process which was facilitated by Thibaut spending a year at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences where he had significant interaction with Kenneth Arrow.
  • 18. JOHN THIBAUT AND HAROLD KELLY  Harold Kelley (February 16, 1921 – January 29, 2003) was an American social psychologist and professor of psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles. His major contributions have been the development of interdependence theory (with John Thibaut),the early work of attribution theory,and a lifelong interest in understanding close relationships processes.
  • 19. JOHN THIBAUT AND HAROLD KELLY  In 1959 they Developed from earlier work by the likes of Kelley an d George Homans, this is based on the concept th at people try to maximise the rewards from a relati onship - eg: attention, affection - while minimising the costs - eg: time and effort, dealing with the other person's emotional problems.  Rewards received should at least equal rewards give n.  The concept tends to assume that people are const antly calculating costs and benefits in their relations hips.
  • 21. RICHARD EMERSON  Emerson (1972a) adopted the language and principles of behavioral psychology to form a theory of social relations. However, he quickly moved beyond behavioral principles to the formation of more complex propositions regarding the emergence of various kinds of social structures. Here the theory picks up the Simmelian focus of Blau’s work as well as the concern with emergent properties and complex social structures. Emerson (1972b), like Blau (1964, 1986), viewed the major task of exchange theory as the creation of a framework in which the primary dependent variable is social structure and structural change. The major task was eminently sociological, not psychological, even though all three theorists explicitly encorporated into their thinking notions about the psychology of actors. Emerson and Cook’s subsequent work (e.g., Cook and Emerson 1978) adopted a more cognitive perspective on the actors involved in social exchange. Molm’s (1981, 1987) earlier work extended the original behavioral underpinnings of the theory.
  • 22. RICHARD EMERSON  A key concept in Emerson’s exchange theory of power is the idea that exchange relations can be balanced or imbalanced. A power inequality results from an imbalance in power relations between two or more actors. An exchange relation is balanced if both parties are equally dependent on each other for exchange (or resources of value). If they are equally dependent, they have equal power. The central idea that power is based on dependence allows for the specification of ways in which dependencies are altered so that they affect the balance of power in the exchange relation and in networks of exchange relations.
  • 23. Social Exchange Theory in relation to family  Social exchange theory can be used to explain why couples marry and divorce, have children, make major purchase decisions (houseand vehicles), or relocate the family to a new city. According to exchange theory, we as individuals are motivated out of self-interest and that we make decisions based on maximizing our rewards or profits and minimizing our costs. This is the main premise of social exchange theory.
  • 24. Social Exchange Theory key assumptions 1. Humans are rational beings.  Nye (1982) states that “within the limitations of the information that they [humans] possess and their ability to predict the future, they make the choices that will bring the most profit” (p.23). In other words, humans make rational/sensible decisions based on the amount of information available to them at that moment in time and that these decisions are made in order to receive the greatest rewards with the least amount of costs. A single mother may be presented with the opportunity for a promotion at work. She must make a rational decision, using the information available to her at that time, of whether or not to accept the new position. She will take into consideration the rewards (increased salary, new title, prestige) and the costs (additional child care costs, more time away from her children, increased work load and responsibilities) when making her decision. If she accepts the new position, she’s anticipating that the rewards will outweigh the costs.
  • 25. Social Exchange Theory key assumptions 2. Individuals must experience costs in order to obtain future rewards.  Nye (1979) explains this assumption as “all behavior is costly in that it requires expenditure of energy and preempts time that might otherwise produce other rewards” a student decides to begin studies towards a Masters degree. student will experience numerous costs during their studies such as: time and energy studying and attending class, additional expenses, and/or more time away from their family. However, in the long run, the ultimate reward of obtaining their Masters Degree will outweigh all of the costs. The student chooses to adapt to and cope with all of the costs associated with obtaining the advanced degree in order to achieve it.
  • 26. Social Exchange Theory key assumptions 3. “the standards that humans use to evaluate rewards and costs differ from person to person and can vary over the course of time”  Nye (1982) holds a similar assumption that“individuals vary in the value they place on the specific objects, experiences, relationships, andpositions” (p. 23). This contrast in the evaluation of rewards and costs may be attributed tocultural, religious, or economic differences between individuals. The rewards associated withobtaining a family pet may be perceived differently by different family members. One membermay view having a family dog as a reward for home security reasons while other members of thefamily may receive the reward of companionship from the pet
  • 27. Social Exchange Theory key assumptions 4. Social exchanges are regulated by the norm of reciprocity  Bagarozzi (1993) indicates that this assumption, “in the form of behavioral reciprocity, was adopted by behaviorists who hypothesized that satisfying marriages were those where high rates of positive reinforces and low rates of punishments were reciprocally exchanged between spouses” (p. 412). The above stated example is a very good description of the norm of reciprocity. The more an individual receives/experiences rewards the more they will reciprocate similar rewarding actions or rewards that are meaningful to the other person
  • 28. Social Exchange Theory key assumptions 5. individuals are motivated by self-interest  Klein and White (1996) indicate that “individuals are unilaterally motivated by self interest-individuals seek things and relationships they regard as beneficial for themselves” (p. 63).  Schaffer and Lia-Hoagberg (1994) note that “humans avoid relationships, interactions, and feeling states that are dissatisfying or costly and seek out situations and experiences that are gratifying, pleasurable, or rewarding” (p. 153). pregnant women will make choices whether or not to obtain prenatal care based on their perceptions of the rewards and costs they and their family will receive from the care.
  • 29. Social Exchange Theory key concepts 1. Rewards and Costs Kleinand White (1996) define rewards and costs as: a reward is anything that is perceived as beneficial to an actor’s interests…although costs may be negative rewards-things perceived as not beneficial to an actor’s self-interest-we should be careful to also include as implicit costs cases in which rewards are missed or forgone. (p. 65) Nye (1982) adds to the descriptions of these two concepts and states that “in general, we can learnwhat is rewarding to people in society both by observing their behavior and by asking them whatthey like or do not like” (p. 14). We are also able to determine what is costly to an individual byfollowing the same process of observing behaviors and questioning the individual about their likesand dislikes.
  • 30. Social Exchange Theory key concepts 2. Profit or Maximizing utility  Profit, as described by Nye (1982), “can be determined in terms of rewards and punishments involved in a contemplated sequence of actions” (p. 15). Klein and White (1996) define profit in terms of a ratio of rewards to costs and that “actors rationally calculate this ratio for all possible choices in a situation and then choose the action they calculate will bring the greatest rewards or the least costs” (p. 66). Individuals will make decisions for themselves or their families based on the predicted amount of profit they will receive from the choice.
  • 31. Social Exchange Theory key concepts 3. Comparison Level (CL) and Comparison Level forAlternatives (CL+).  These concepts were developed by Thibaut and Kelley. Thibaut and Kelley (1959) defined Comparison Level as “a standard by which the person evaluates the rewards and costs of a given relationship in terms of what he feels he deserves” (p. 21). Klein and White(1996) further explain this concept as “the comparison (CL) of what others in your position have and how well you are doing relative to them” (p. 66). For example, a wife may compare the benefits of her marriage to other women who live in a similar marital environments. The concept of Comparison Level is slightly different from the concept of Comparison Level for Alternatives.
  • 32. Social Exchange Theory key concepts 3. Comparison Level (CL) and Comparison Level for Alternatives (CL+).  Comparison Level for Alternatives is explained by Klein and White (1996) as “how well you are doing relative to others outside of your position but in positions that supply an alternative choice” (p. 66). The wife may not only compare her benefits relative to women in other marriages, but she may also make an alternative comparison of the rewards of her current marriage to the possible rewards of being divorced or remarrying. The Comparison Level of Alternatives is very subjective. If the wife perceives that she will receive more benefits or rewards if she divorces her husband she is more likely to leave her current marriage.
  • 33. Social Exchange Theory application in the family Social exchange theory has numerous applications to working with families. It was noted during a brief literature review that social exchange theory has been applied to the distribution of housework and child caring responsibilities, divorce, family violence, relationship satisfaction, decisions regarding prenatal care, and planning for marriage.