Social Exchange Theory is a psychological concept that explains why people help others. According to this theory, humans are rational beings that weigh the costs and benefits of their actions before making decisions. In the context of helping behavior, this means that people only help others when they believe that the benefits of helping outweigh the costs.

What is Social Exchange Theory?

Social Exchange Theory is a social psychology concept that explains how people make decisions in social situations. The theory suggests that individuals weigh the benefits and costs of their actions before making a decision. The theory is based on the idea that people are rational beings who try to maximize their outcomes in any given situation.

According to Social Exchange Theory, individuals engage in social interactions with the expectation of receiving rewards and avoiding punishments. These rewards can be anything from material possessions to emotional satisfaction.

How Does Social Exchange Theory Explain Helping Behavior?

In the context of helping behavior, Social Exchange Theory suggests that individuals engage in helping behaviors when they believe that the benefits of helping outweigh the costs. In other words, people only help others when they believe they will receive a reward for doing so.

The rewards for helping can be both tangible and intangible. For example, an individual may help a friend move because they expect their friend to return the favor later on. Alternatively, an individual may help a stranger cross the street because it makes them feel good about themselves.

The costs of helping can also be tangible and intangible. Tangible costs include things like time and money spent on helping others. Intangible costs include things like physical discomfort or emotional stress caused by helping others.

Reciprocity

One concept within Social Exchange Theory that explains helping behavior is reciprocity. Reciprocity refers to the idea that individuals feel obligated to return favors after receiving assistance from someone else.

For example, if someone helps you move into your new apartment, you may feel obligated to return the favor in the future. This obligation to reciprocate can motivate individuals to engage in helping behaviors.

Cost-Benefit Analysis

Another concept within Social Exchange Theory that explains helping behavior is cost-benefit analysis. Cost-benefit analysis refers to the process of weighing the costs and benefits of a particular action before making a decision.

In the context of helping behavior, individuals engage in a cost-benefit analysis before deciding whether or not to help someone. They consider factors like the potential rewards for helping, the potential costs of helping, and their own personal values and beliefs.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Social Exchange Theory helps explain why people help others. It suggests that individuals engage in helping behaviors when they believe that the benefits of helping outweigh the costs. The theory also suggests that concepts like reciprocity and cost-benefit analysis play important roles in motivating people to engage in helping behaviors.

As social creatures, humans have an innate desire to connect with each other. Helping others can be a way to fulfill this desire while also maximizing our own outcomes. By understanding Social Exchange Theory, we can gain insight into why people help others and how we can encourage more helping behaviors in our communities.