Group Social Exchange Theory Research Paper Examples

Type of paper: Research Paper

Topic: Theory, Sociology, Exchange, Relationships, Community, Communication, Goals, Society

Pages: 3

Words: 825

Published: 2020/11/17

The concept of Social Exchange Theory is founded on the idea “that the exchange of social and material resources is a fundamental form of human interaction” (Social Exchange, 2005). The emergence of this theory rooted from scholastic observation that a form of balanced interactions is molded by the strength of relationship among individuals. The proponents of this theory argued that people in given a social circumstance seek to find gain from relations. There is an intrinsic reason why a certain relationships are developed while others are ended. The question is on what one gets from the relationship and what one would give up in return for the benefit. For this reason, individuals tend to pick out and exhibit behaviors that are likely to promote their self-interest in a given circumstance (Social, 2004).

Key Components

Like most theory on social relationships, the social exchange theory presents a number of assumptions or core components. Firstly, is the concept that social relationships have its cost and rewards. This concept asserts that people are rational being and most certainly employ calculations on the costs and benefits that may be achieved in a certain relationship. Individuals become decision makers as they are involved in the social interaction as actors and reactors. Secondly is the comparison of the actual benefit from the expectation of the recipient. There is the assumption that the actors and reactors seek to find the utmost benefit from the connections, the benefits being seek are those that satisfactorily meet the basic needs. When the expectation is more than the actual benefit, then one may find satisfaction in the relationship, otherwise, the feeling of dissatisfaction may occur. Thirdly, is the comparison level of certain alternative; the dissatisfaction or satisfaction does not absolutely determine the development or end of a relationship. Social exchange theory holds that after analyzing the current relationship, one may still consider the comparison level of other alternatives (Explaining, 2004). In addition to the core components, the social exchange theory cites that certain benefits lead to the creation of a pattern that molds social relations. As the pattern progresses, the individuals may continuously seek to uphold their needs while they became receivers of behavior from others that are most certainly the product of the others’ aspiration to fulfill their own desires (Social, 2004). It is further assumed by this theory that people are naturally inclined to set their goals and that the competitive system of the social structure may result to the imbalance of the exchange processes. The imbalance of the structure leads to the unequal exchange of benefits, with one getting the better out of the relationship (Social, 2004).

Theory of Small Group Communication

The small group theory can also explain the phenomena behind the social exchange principle. Scholars maintain that in small group communication and social exchange theory, the group members tend to be attached to the group and other members for as long as one can see that the benefits of being a member of the particular group exceeds the cost. The rewards or benefits may range from personal successes, achievements of certain objectives and other goals (Beebe & Masterson, 2000). The costs may include time, effort and other things given up as well as anxiety as a result of being a member of the group. As one applies the principle of group social exchange in small groups, one may see that individual and group interactions are rational methods and one can assess the satisfaction level within the group through the principle.

Comparison to Other Theories

One of the theories by which the social interaction theory can be compared is the interpersonal needs theory by William Schultz. Both the interpersonal and social exchange theory convey that a person’s need to belong, have control and gain affection as this is the driving factor that motivates him to react and communicate with others. In the first assumption of social exchange theory, it is argued that individuals are actors and reactors in a relationship. This is almost the same to the “express and want components” of the interpersonal theory wherein people tend to express and behave in a manner that fulfill their needs. Schultz further advocated that the degree of ones’ need may vary in the process and the fulfillment of each need may change. While the social exchange theory cites that the actors and reactors act to gain the most benefit from a relationship, Schultz uphold that each persons need is different from the other and the satisfaction level depends on individual choice.
Another theory is the Functionalism theory which maintain that the society is expansive system composed of diverse social organization whose interaction are needed for the maintenance of public order and stability. While the social exchange theory focuses on individual gain and perspective, the functionalist theory differ as it emphases on the different components of society and their contribution in the achievement of societal goals and objectives. For example, one of the components of the society is the family. The parental goal of giving proper learning and education to children and the educational support from the government are aimed at the goal of having educated and productive citizens in the future.

Symbolic Convergence

The symbolic convergence theory refers to the creation of symbols, whether verbal or nonverbal, that only insiders in a group can interpret. The sense of unity is achieved after the members understood and communicate with each other through their shared experiences and mutual understanding. What is unique from this theory is the cohesiveness of the members that usually happens after a common interpretation of their experiences (Theories, 2000).


Beebe, S., Masterson, J., (2000). Communicating in Small Groups: Principles and Practices. Retrieved from
Explaining Theories of Interpersonal Communication. Retrieved from
Social Exchange Theory. Retrieved from
Social Exchange Theory. Retrieved from h
Theories of Small Group Communication. Retrieved from ttp://

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Group Social Exchange Theory Research Paper Examples. Free Essay Examples - Published Nov 17, 2020. Accessed September 27, 2023.

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