The Social Exchange Theory is a psychological theory that attempts to explain how individuals make decisions in social relationships. According to the theory, people engage in a process of weighing the costs and benefits of their interactions with others. This theory assumes certain things about people’s behavior, which we will explore in this article.

Assumptions of the Social Exchange Theory

The Social Exchange Theory makes several assumptions about people and their actions. These assumptions help us understand why individuals choose to engage or disengage in social relationships. Let’s delve into some of these assumptions:

1. Rational Decision-Making

The theory assumes that individuals are rational decision-makers who weigh the potential rewards and costs of a relationship before engaging in it. People are believed to make calculated choices based on how much they stand to gain or lose from a particular social interaction.

2. Self-Interest

Another assumption is that people are primarily motivated by self-interest.

They seek to maximize their own benefits while minimizing their costs in relationships. This does not mean that individuals are selfish, but rather that they prioritize their own well-being when making decisions.

3. Comparison Level

The Social Exchange Theory also assumes that individuals have a comparison level against which they evaluate the outcomes of their relationships.

This comparison level is based on past experiences, personal values, and societal norms. People compare the rewards and costs they receive in a relationship to their comparison level to determine its satisfaction or dissatisfaction.

4. Comparison Level for Alternatives

In addition to the comparison level, this theory also assumes that individuals have a comparison level for alternatives—a standard against which they assess other possible relationship options. If someone perceives that an alternative relationship offers greater rewards and fewer costs than their current one, they may choose to leave and pursue the alternative.

5. Reciprocity

The Social Exchange Theory assumes that individuals expect reciprocity in their relationships.

People strive for a balance between giving and receiving rewards. If one person consistently receives more benefits than they give, the relationship may become imbalanced and unsatisfying.

Applications of the Social Exchange Theory

The Social Exchange Theory has extensive applications in various fields, including psychology, sociology, and communication studies. Here are a few examples:

In conclusion, the Social Exchange Theory assumes that individuals are rational decision-makers who prioritize self-interest when engaging in social relationships. They evaluate the rewards and costs of a relationship based on comparison levels and comparison levels for alternatives. By understanding these assumptions, we gain insights into why people make certain choices in their social interactions.