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Thibaut and Kelley (1959) - Social Exchange Theory
· This theory assumes social behaviour is a series of exchanges
· People want to maximise rewards and minimise costs
· People exchange resources aiming to profit i.e. aiming for rewards to be higher
than the costs
· Examples of rewards : companionship, sex, being cared for
· Examples of costs: effort, financial investment, time wasted (missed
opportunities with others because of being in a relationship)
· The more profitable the relationship = the better…read more

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Thibaut and Kelley (1959) - Social Exchange Theory
· We develop a comparison level to judge if someone offers something better or worse
than someone else could potentially offer
· Our comparison level is based on our past experiences + general expectations of a
relationship
· Potential new relationship exceeds comparison level = relationship is judged as
worthwhile and individual is seen as attractive
· When already in a relationship we have a comparison level for alternatives
· Comparison level for alternatives = potential increase in rewards from a different
partner ­ costs of ending current relationship
· New relationship could replace the current relationship if profit level is higher…read more

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Support for Thibaut and Kelley (1959)'s Social
Exchange Theory
Simpson et al (1990) ­ people Gottman and Levenson (1992) ­ in
Rusbult + Martz (1995) ­ in a relationship rate the successful marriages positive to
attractiveness of members of negative exchanges are on a ratio
the theory can explain why of 5:1
the opposite sex lower than
women stay in abusive people that aren't in a - In unsuccessful marriages the
relationships. When relationship. ration is lower at 1:1 or less
investments (children, Christensen et al (2004) ­
Supports the theory by
financial security) are high suggesting people in Integrated behavioural Couples
and alternatives (nowhere relationships create coping Therapy aims to break negative
to go, no money) are low it behaviour patterns . He found that
strategies for reducing the 2/3rds of participants saw
may still seem profitable. threat of alternatives in order improvements in their relationship
to protect their relationship as a result
BUT... The theory doesn't explain why
some people leave relationships
without there being an alternative…read more

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Evidence against Thibaut and Kelley (1959)'s Social
Exchange Theory
Moghaddam (1998) ­ the theory
Social exchange theory focuses only applies to western, short
too much on individual The theory is criticised for term relationships where there's
perspectives and ignores how suggesting people are only social mobility.
partners communicate and motivated to maintain When there's not enough time
interpret shared events. relationships for selfish reasons to develop long term
commitment it makes sense to
be concerned with give-and-
take.
In long term relationships with
low mobility its more likely
security is valued than personal
profit.
Cultural bias in the theory…read more

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Walster et al (1978) ­ Equity Theory
· Equity theory is an extension of social exchange theory
· It assumes people aim to achieve fairness in their relationship and feel
distressed if they perceive unfairness
· Any inequity (unfairness) = can cause distress
· People who give a lot in a relationship and don't get much back will perceive
inequity and be dissatisfied in the relationship
· People who get more than they give may also perceive inequity and be
dissatisfied in the relationship
· Greater perceived inequity => greater dissatisfaction => greater distress…read more

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