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Compare the explanations for relationship breakdown given by exchange and equity theory. Which do you consider the most convincing and why?

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´╗┐Compare the explanations for relationship breakdown given by exchange and equity theory. Which do you consider the most convincing and why? The social exchange theory was suggested by Thibaut and Kelley in 1959 who said that people exchange resources with the expectation or the hope that they will earn a ?profit?. Rewards we may receive from a relationship includes being cared for, companionship and sex. Costs may include financial investment, effort and time wasted. The social exchange theory stresses that commitment to a relationship is dependent on the profitability of the outcome. To see how profitable the relationship would be, we use ?comparison level? where the person uses past experiences to have general views on what we expect from future partners. If we judge that the potential profit in a new relationship exceeds our comparison level then the relationship is seen as worthwhile and there the person is seen as more attractive. However, if the profit is less than the comparison level, then we will be dissatisfied with the relationship and therefore the person would be seen as less attractive. ...read more.


Those participants who were already involved in a relationship gave lower ratings. This is supportive of the social exchange theory as it indicates that we do have a ?comparison level? of which we judge or compare against. According to the behaviourist approach, we learn all behaviours through operant and classical conditioning. Operant conditioning is when you learn through the reinforcement and receipt of rewards. For example, we are more likely to be attracted to someone whom directly rewards us by meeting out psychological needs for friendship, love and sex. Classical conditioning is when we learn through association (indirect reward) of pleasant circumstances. For example, if we associate people with being in a good mood, or removing a negative mood, we are more likely to find them attractive. This approach directly links with the social exchange theory as they both engage the components of reward. The behaviourist approach supports this theory in that we do base our decisions on the rewards we get, which can be linked with operant conditioning where we learn through reinforcement. Further to this, the social exchange theory also takes into account of past experiences through ?comparison level? which can be explained using classical conditioning. ...read more.


On the other hand, the equity theory is highly criticised. For example, Ragsdale and Brandau-Brown (2007) reject the claim that equity is key determinant of relationship satisfaction. They argue that this represents ?an incomplete rendering of the way in which married people behave with respect to each other?, and that equity theory is, therefore, an insufficient theory to explain marital maintenance. Likewise to the social exchange theory, the equity explanation is also culturally biased. Moghaddam et al (1983) found that IS students prefer equity, but European students prefer equality, suggesting that the theory reflects the values of US society. Moreover, equity seems more important to females, suggesting that the theory is not applicable to both genders. Hoschchild and Machung (1989) found that women do most of the work to make relationships equitable. Although in counter evidence, Yum et al (2009) looked at different types of heterosexual relationships in six different cultures. As predicted by the equity theory, maintenance strategies differed and he found that cultural factors had little effect, suggesting that the equity theory can be applied to relationships across cultures. Although there is some evidence for supporting the equity theory, the social exchange theory is far more thorough and has sound supporting research. ...read more.

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