Boise State University
Social Dimensions of Human
A conversation according
to Social exchange theory
Kirst-Ashman (2008). Human Behavior,
Communities, Organizations, and Groups in
the Macro Social Environment: An
Empowerment Approach. pp 49.
A Conversation Between Horace and Francine
Rate the cost of each social exchange and
Based on the original economic work of
Adam Smith’s The Wealth of the Nations.
Self-Interest is the Driving Economic Force
Competition Mitigates Greed
The Invisible Hand regulates the ebb and
flow of free markets– we seek mutually
Adam Smith continued…
Once economic forces become stable; then
institutions emerge from the stability of
Institutions form societal structures
Thus social exchange is very vulnerable to
those who have status or power within
George Hormans (1974)
Proposed that social exchange is based
upon the concepts of operant conditioning.
Actions are increased by rewards or the absence
Actions are based upon the perception that
greater rewards can be obtained
Anger or pleasure results from the unexpected
withholding or provision of rewards.
Key Concepts in Social
Social exchange (relationships) are based upon four
I am a proud member of the NASW and want to contribute to the
greater cause of social work; so I am getting my MSW
John at the office is getting his MSW, so I should probably get
mine…can’t let him get ahead.
I hate my supervisor; I could be a better supervisor. I am going to
get my MSW so I can become his or her boss.
My supervisor to me to get my MSW or leave the agency.
Key Concept is Social
A goal oriented human behavior is directed by the goal
Profits = Rewards minus the Cost of Invested Behavior
Symbolic (Attention, advice, status)
Diminished Marginal Utility: The reward is received so often; it
no longer has value.
Scarcity: Increases the value of reward
Power: Possessing a skill that is scarce or highly coveted
Principle of the Least: The person least interested in the
reward; has the most power.
What is your perception of this theory
based on your own morality?
What moral presuppositions do you base
this perception on?
Based upon Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral
Development; what is necessary to be
moral in a social exchange culture?
The Moral Balance in
Social Exchange Theory
Morality regulates the exchange processes
The Rule of Distributive Justice
Rewards are proportional to what is invested
Investments are: Achieved or Ascribed
Achieved is earning an MSW
Ascribed is being recognized as an expert in a specific field
of social work (status)
Thus one groups investment may be perceived as more
highly valued then another groups investment even though
they both contribute the same amount.
Status congruence refers to the preference of participants
to be of the same status.
The Law of Social Exchange
(Nye, 1982, 20-21)
Individuals chose alternatives from Individuals choose options that
which they expect to profit. provide them with the most
Cost being equal, they chose autonomy.
alternatives that produce the greatest Individuals choose options with the
reward least ambiguity in regards to future
Rewards being equal, they chose the events and outcomes
alternatives that anticipate the fewest People choose the options that offer
costs the most security for them
Immediate outcomes being equal, People pair up with like minded
they choose those alternatives that individuals and avoid people who are
promise better long term outcomes different in order to maintain status
Long-term outcomes being equal, The more alike you are to someone;
they choose alternatives with better the more you are likely to value them
short term outcomes. Individuals choose opportunities that
Cost/benefits being equal; people are likely to produce the greatest
choose the most socially approved financial gain with the least cost.
The Dynamic Yet Cyclical
Force of Exchange Theory
(Peter Blau, 1964)
Exchange transactions lead to…
Differentiations in Status and Power,
which leads to…
Legitimation and Organization, which
Opposition and change….
From this we derive status, power,
French & Raven (1968)
Coercive: Ability to commit violence or
deprive of livelihood
Reward: Ability to give or withhold
material reward or symbolic reward
Expert: Ability to inform
Legitimate: Ability to prescribe behavior
Referent: Ability to command another’s
respect (charming or charismatic)
Social Exchange Case
How does social exchange theory apply
to the following real life cases?
Clients with mental illness are denied
treatment, based upon the fact there is a cut
in funding and the clients that once were
deemed worthy of receiving active treatment
are no longer considered eligible for service
based upon symptomology.
Social Exchange Case
A nursing home limits the number of
Medicaid patients they will take due to
the lower payment received by
State/Federal reimbursement; ironically
Medicaid is the biggest payer of long-
term care services.
Social Exchange Theory
Foster care parents in the State of Washington
decided to unionize even though they are
considered contractors; not employees of the
State of Washington. They are demanding
better pay, benefits, and additional training.
Some individuals have noted that social
workers have too much power in the system
and foster care parents want more say in what
goes on in the child’s life.