Exchange Theory

Theory Development:                     

The exchange theory was originally developed by George Homans.  Homans, born in 1910 in Boston, Massachusetts, received both of his degrees- bachelors and masters- from Harvard University. According Kathy Stolley in The Basics of Sociology (2005),“As an undergraduate, Homans studied English rather than sociology,” but he became fascinated with the Sociology Department and joined many clubs revolving around sociology.  Homans eventually became the president of American Sociological Association after publishing two of his main works, The Human Group in 1950, and Social Behavior: Its Elementary Forms in 1974. In both of these publications, Homans described and elaborated on the exchange theory.

The exchange theory, also referred to as the social exchange theory, is really based on all forms of human social interaction.  To summarize, in matters of communication this theory considers all the costs and benefits of a particular relationship to determine if it is a valid relationship.  It “focuses on the alternatives people have, or think they have, in various situations” (Stolley, 2005).  An example is how people join groups or organizations because there are promising rewards, but when that particular group’s or organization’s costs outweigh the benefits, the individual who joins may choose to remove themselves from the group.