What Is the Social Equity Theory Psychology?
The social equity theory is a psychological concept that explores the idea of fairness and equality in relationships. It focuses on how individuals perceive and evaluate the fairness or equity of their social exchanges, such as friendships, romantic partnerships, or business interactions. According to this theory, people are motivated to maintain a sense of fairness in their relationships by balancing inputs and outcomes.
Key Principles of Social Equity Theory
In an equitable relationship, individuals believe that the rewards they receive are proportional to the contributions they make.
They perceive a fair balance between what they invest in a relationship (inputs) and what they gain from it (outcomes). This perception of equity leads to higher levels of satisfaction and commitment.
2. Overbenefitted and Underbenefitted
Social equity theory also recognizes two states: overbenefitted and underbenefitted.
When someone feels overbenefitted, they believe that they are receiving more rewards than they deserve compared to their inputs. Conversely, when someone feels underbenefitted, they perceive that their inputs outweigh the rewards they receive.
Factors Influencing Perceptions of Equity
1. Comparison Level
A person’s comparison level is influenced by their past experiences and societal norms.
It represents an individual’s expectations about the level of rewards they should receive based on what others receive in similar situations. If someone’s outcomes exceed their comparison level, they will feel satisfaction, whereas if their outcomes fall short, dissatisfaction may arise. Comparison Level for Alternatives
This factor considers an individual’s perception of available alternatives outside their current relationship.
If someone believes they have attractive alternatives, they may be more willing to leave an inequitable relationship. On the other hand, if they perceive limited alternatives, they are likely to tolerate inequity.
Consequences of Social Inequity
1. Distress and Discontent
When individuals perceive themselves as underbenefitted or overbenefitted in a relationship, it can lead to distress and discontent.
Underbenefitted individuals may experience feelings of anger, resentment, and injustice. Overbenefitted individuals might feel guilt or discomfort due to the perceived unfair advantage they possess. Relationship Dissolution
If inequity persists over time without resolution, it can lead to dissatisfaction and ultimately relationship dissolution. Underbenefitted individuals may seek fairer relationships elsewhere, while overbenefitted individuals might feel guilty for taking advantage of others.
Tips for Maintaining Equity in Relationships
- Open Communication: Regularly communicate with your partner or friend about your needs and expectations to avoid misunderstandings.
- Share Responsibilities: Distribute tasks and responsibilities fairly to ensure an equitable division of labor.
- Show Appreciation: Acknowledge and appreciate the efforts and contributions made by the other person in the relationship.
- Be Flexible: Flexibility helps in adjusting expectations and finding compromises that maintain equity when circumstances change.
The social equity theory psychology provides valuable insights into how individuals perceive fairness in their relationships. By understanding the principles of equity, recognizing the factors that influence perceptions of fairness, and taking steps to maintain equity, we can foster healthier and more satisfying connections with others.