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Social Exchange Theory

  • By: Christopher R. Agnew & Justin J. Lehmiller
  • In: Encyclopedia of Social Psychology
  • Edited by: Roy F. Baumeister & Kathleen D. Vohs
  • Subject:Social Psychology (general)
Definition

Social exchange theory is a broad social psychological perspective that attempts to explain how human social relationships are formed, maintained, and terminated. The basic premise of this theory is that how people feel about a given interaction or relationship depends fundamentally on the outcomes that they perceive to be associated with it. More specifically, the perceived costs and benefits that accompany a person's interactions determine how he or she evaluates them. To the extent that rewards are seen as high and costs are seen as low, a person tends to feel good about a relationship and will stay in it. If perceived costs increase or perceived benefits decrease, however, satisfaction with the relationship will decline and the person is more likely to end it.

Because social ...

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