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Social Exchange Theory, Exchange Resources, and Interpersonal Relationships: A Modest Resolution of Theoretical Difficulties

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Handbook of Social Resource Theory

Abstract

Taking a more empirical approach to theory development, in this chapter, Marie Mitchell, Russel Cropanzano, and David Quisenberry raise the question of what social exchange theory has contributed to organizational research. Scholars generally agree on the reciprocal nature of exchange patterns, but theories of social exchange differ in terms of their explanation of the resources exchanged and how those resources are perceived by exchange partners. Contemporary models of social exchange incorporate interpersonal relationships into their exchange theories, but these models differ in how they conceptualize relational patterns. Three broad conceptual paradigms are distinguished: models that emphasize relationship formation, attributes of the relationship as resources to be exchanged, and relationships as a social context that changes the rules by which exchanges are conducted. The authors integrate strengths of each approach to provide a research agenda that can extend social exchange theorizing by providing a better description of what is exchanged and how meaning is derived in exchange relations.

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Notes

  1. 1.

     We caution that we are simplifying these findings for conciseness. The results were quite rich and interesting. Notably, Mikula et al. (1998) were interested in actor/recipient differences in judgments of fairness. In general, people who performed the questionable acts (the actors) were more generous in their judgments than were the people harmed by the actions (the recipients). However, these differences were reduced for couples in higher quality relationships.

  2. 2.

     A factor analytic study by Haslam and Fiske (1999) found evidence for all four relational modes. However, it was noteworthy that equality matching was highly correlated with communal sharing. It may be that these two modalities are less easily distinguished than are the others.

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Mitchell, M.S., Cropanzano, R.S., Quisenberry, D.M. (2012). Social Exchange Theory, Exchange Resources, and Interpersonal Relationships: A Modest Resolution of Theoretical Difficulties. In: Törnblom, K., Kazemi, A. (eds) Handbook of Social Resource Theory. Critical Issues in Social Justice. Springer, New York, NY. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-4175-5_6

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