Introduction the same (or more) from others, and similarly,


our daily life, we constantly encounter situations where we are giving favor
and assistance in return for something else received in the past, or in
anticipation of receiving something else in the future, which is easy to understand in that people who give something to others
expect the same (or more) from others, and similarly, those that get something
from others are pressurized to return the same to them. These very popular circumstancess
can be explained in light of social exchange theory (SET). This paper will
first begin with brief history of the SET. Then, I will move on with its basic
content as well as the basic concepts of the SET, which is followed by the
application of this theory as hypothetical framework in various disciplines. Finally,
this essay will end with my explanation, based on the SET, of some familar
situations in my daily life along with my comments and opinions of this theory.

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Brief history

The theory has roots in economics, psychologyand sociology. Going back to the early origin, the
SET has surfaced in the middle of the 21st century. According to Wikipedia, the SET has been derived from the
work of Homans (1958), Thibaut and Kelley (1959),
Blau (1964), and Cook and Emerson (1987). “Social
Behavior as Exchange” published in 1958 presents sociologist Homans’ view that exchange between
individuals, tangible or intangible,
continues because each finds the others’ behavior reinforcing to some degree, i.e.
more or less rewarding or costly. Thibaut and Kelley (1959) are recognized for focusing
their studies within the theory on the psychological concepts, the dyad and
small group in “The Social Psychologyof Groups”. Blau (1964) argued that it is possible to understand social
structure and events that occur within social structures by looking first at
individual processes that occur between people and then building on them.
Blau’s theory combines principles from operant psychology and econornics to
provide a conceptual framework for the analysis of social relations. The approach
of Cook and Emerson (1987) focused on the exchange relation as the most
elementary unit of analysis rather than the behavior or action, taking
hypotheses from operant psychology and applied these to human social leaming,
specifically their application to individuals. They presented a more general
theoretical framework for analyzing social interactions, atternpting to link
individuals involved in social exchange relations together to form structures
or networks.

Basic content and

SET is defined in Wikipedia as:

            a social
psychological and sociological
perspective that explains social
change and stability as       a process of
negotiated exchanges between parties. Social exchange theory posits that   human relationships are formed by the use of a subjective cost-benefit
analysis and the        comparison of

(2017) further explained that according to this
theory, people tend to weigh the prospective benefits and risks of social
relationships in order to maximize benefits and minimize costs. In other words,
when we enter a relationship, we are inclined to evaluate the rewards we
are likely to gain and the costs we are willing to pay. If  the rewards
outweigh the risks , we will continue to develop the relationship and vice versa (Liu, Vol?i?, & Gallois, 2015).


interactions and exchanges are perceived in SET as a kind of results-driven
social behavior, in which is the concept of cost and rewards is primary. This
means that the outcome of a particular relationship
is assessed by the comparison between the rewards derived from a relationship
and the costs incurred in that relationship. Rewards refer to “pleasures,
satisfactions, and gratifications the person enjoys” while costs are defined as
“any factors that operate to inhibit or deter the performance of a sequence of
behavior” (Thibaut & Kelley, 1959, p. 12). Or as Liu, Vol?i?, & Gallois (2015) stated “The
rewards of human relationships can be expressed in the form of satisfaction,
happiness, self-esteem, acceptance, and friendship. The costs may involve
money, time, unhappiness, dissatisfaction, losing face, and frustration.”
(p. 230). Basically, rewards are positive feelings
while costs are negative ones. It suggests that individuals in certain
relationships intentionally or unintentionally consider the balance and measure
the disparity between rewards and costs, and then consequently regulate their
own maintenance behaviors used in that relationship. From the social exchange
perspective, rewards and costs are assessed in an overall rating. The
relational outcome value of a particular relationship could be transcribed into
a mathematical equation as follows: outcome = rewards – costs (Thibaut &
Kelley, 1959). More specifically, in the work by Dainton and Zelley (2005), specified
relational rewards are viewed as pleasant benefits whereas relational costs are
supposed as unpleasant drawbacks; therefore, individuals obtain positive
outcome value when the rewards outweigh the cost and vice versa.  


to Social Work Degree Guide (n.d.)., we
should include cultural values when analyzing the decisions of different
societies as every culture has their own unique way of judging value, costs and
rewards. For example, Asian societies, such as China and Japan, are collective
cultures that emphasize group harmony and sacrifice for the group. Therefore,
certain individual costs, such as personal freedom or happiness, are not as
important as in individualized cultures. In fact, the negative costs of social
disapproval are more severe in collective Asian cultures.


Application in various

its inception, the exchange framework has captured the interest of
investigators throughout the social sciences (namely social
psychology and anthropology), political science to the field of law, to name a
few. In the study by Nord (1969), exchange theory proved:

            to provide a useful vehicle for data
integration and generation of new hypotheses about social      conformity and the model allows for the
process of social conformity to be considered in         dynamic terms, treating the influence source and influenced
person simultaneously (p. 174)

Sociologists have found the framework fruitful in
examining interorganizational relations (Levine &
White, 1960). These experts argued that interaction  among 
organizations  can  be 
viewed  within the framework  of  an
exchange model like  that suggested  by 
Homans and that such model is useful in 
understanding  not  only 
health  agency  interaction but  also 
relationships within  other  specific systems. They added the possibility
of applying this skeleton in explaining interaction among organizations belonging
to different systems; moreover, the SET is believed to have obvious value
in  explaining interaction among units or
departments within a single large-scale organization. Rapoport and Chammah
(1965) have used a form of exchange theory to account for conflict,
negotiation, and decision making in both the interpersonal and the
international arenas. In the field of politics, Waldman (1972) relied upon the exchange framework to integrate understanding of
wide-ranging political activities. He emphasized that the exchange paradigm is
helpful to “explain  the  degree of governmental power and
responsiveness in the allocation of values”, and “the nature of the
particular policy areas in which governments are most likely to intervene”
(p. 118) as well as “to analyze the nature and degree of cooperation
between different party organizations in different contexts”, and “the
nature of leadership within parties in various settings” (p. 121)


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