Maintenance of relationships: social exchange theory

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Psychology unit 3 relationships revision
Maintenance of relationships- social exchange theory
Description
It's an economic theory that focuses on the costs and rewards and comparing them
to other relationships. There are 4 stages:
Sampling: consider the potential rewards and costs of relationships and
compare them to other relationships available at the time. It will be
maintained if the rewards are greater than the costs.
Bargaining: give and receive rewards to test if a relationship is worthwhile.
The relationship will be maintained if the rewards out way the costs.
Commitment: the relationship increases in predictability so each partner
knows how to elicit rewards from each other, which lowers cost. A
relationship will be maintained if the rewards out way the costs.
Institutionalisation: the relationship norms are developed which establishes
the patterns of rewards and costs for each partner. The relationship is
maintained if the rewards are greater than the costs.
A comparison level is a product of our experiences in other relationships and our
general expectations. A relationship is maintained if the potential profit exceeds
out comparison level.
A comparison level for alternatives is when we weigh up the potential increase in
rewards from an alternative partner against the costs associated with ending a
current relationship. Relationships are maintained if the costs of leaving a
relationship are greater than the benefits of leaving a relationship.
Evaluation
Hard to measure costs and rewards in a relationship as it can be subjective as
rewards and costs have different values for different people. Therefore it is hard
to make predictions using this theory.
Explains why people stay in abusive relationships as the comparison level for
alternatives says that relationships are maintained if costs of leaving are greater
than the benefits of leaving
Doesn't explain why people leave a relationship when there is no alternative
partner as the theory says relationships are maintained if there is no alternative.
Explains how marriage guidance can save a relationship as it helps couples to
re-evaluate the costs and rewards of a relationship.
The idea of profits and costs can be used as a therapy. Unhappy couples report
the ratio of positive and negative exchanges is around 1:1 whereas happy couples

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Psychology unit 3 relationships revision
report a ratio of 5:1. The therapy aims to raise positive and profitable exchanges
and a study of 60 couples found that 2/3 improved. This supports the therapy as
it shows when rewards are greater, a relationship is maintained.…read more

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