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Social Exchange

Michael E. Roloff

Subject Communication Studies » Interpersonal Communication
Sociology » Social Psychology

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405131995.2008.x


Human survival is based on the ability to exchange resources, and as a result of evolution, the human brain has adapted so as to facilitate exchange ( Cosmides & Tooby 2005 ). Communication is a tool by which individuals can negotiate an exchange (→  Negotiation and Bargaining ) as well as provide resources ( Roloff 1981 ). Appropriately, communication scholars have used social exchange theories to guide their research. Interpersonal researchers have applied these frameworks to a variety of relational processes (→  Disclosure in Interpersonal Communication ; Interpersonal Conflict ; Relationship Development ; Relational Maintenance ). Organizational researchers have found the frameworks useful for investigating →  supervisor–subordinate relationships , as well as other aspects of the workplace ( Cropanzano & Mitchell 2005 ). Although different in some respects, social exchange theories assume that individuals are self-interested and that they will act in ways that meet their resource needs. People repeat rewarded behavior largely because they anticipate that those actions will be rewarded relative to other behaviors. Acting in a purely self-interested fashion could create exploitation that threatens social cohesion. To prevent exploitation, norms have emerged that guide social exchange. For example, the norm of reciprocity dictates that after receiving a resource, the ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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