Encyclopedia of Couple and Family Therapy

2019 Edition
| Editors: Jay L. Lebow, Anthony L. Chambers, Douglas C. Breunlin

Social Exchange Theory

  • Alexander Lin HsiehEmail author
  • Clayton C. Hughes
  • William E. Schult
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-49425-8_56

Name of Theory

Social Exchange Theory


Relational cost-benefit analysis; Relational economics; Social behaviorism


Social psychology emerged following the events of World War II, when the focus turned to persuasion and propaganda, and gained popularity before the turn of the nineteenth century (Sabatelli and Shehan 1993). Following the destruction of warfare, a unique theory emerging from the basics of economics and psychology was molded into social exchange theory. Social exchange theory was originally coined by George Homans in 1958 in his work titled Social Behavior as Exchange (Sabatelli and Shehan 1993). The theory was grounded in economics, and it provided fundamentals for analyzing and conceptualizing business interactions and deals. At its core, social exchange theory seeks to maximize profit or gains while minimizing resources or costs. Naturally, in economics, one would prefer a surplus in profits with minimal costs. Thus, social exchange theory...

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alexander Lin Hsieh
    • 1
    Email author
  • Clayton C. Hughes
    • 2
  • William E. Schult
    • 2
  1. 1.Alliant International UniversitySacramentoUSA
  2. 2.Couples Resource CollectiveSacramentoUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Kelley Quirk
    • 1
  • Adam Fisher
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Marriage and Family Therapy Program, Human Development and Family StudiesColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA
  2. 2.The Family Institute at Northwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA
  3. 3.Brigham Young UniversityProvoUSA