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Social exchange theory is a social psychological and sociological perspective that explains social change and stability as a process of negotiated exchanges between parties.

Social exchange theory posits that human relationships are formed by the use of a subjective cost-benefit analysis and the comparison of alternatives.

The theory has roots in economics, psychology and sociology.

It is also used quite frequently in the business world to imply a two-sided, mutually contingent and rewarding process involving transactions or simply exchange.

After Homans founded the theory, other theorists continued to write about it, particularly Peter M. Emerson, who in addition to Homans are generally thought of as the major developers of the exchange perspective within sociology.

Lévi-Strauss is recognized for contributing to the emergence of this theoretical perspective from his work on anthropology focused on systems of generalized exchange, such as kinship systems and gift exchange.

Peter Blau focused his early writings on social exchange theory more towards the economic and utilitarian perspective, whereas Homans focused on reinforcement principles which presuppose individuals base their next social move on past experiences.

Blau's utilitarian focus encouraged the theorist to look forward, as in what they anticipated the reward would be in regards to their next social interaction.

Richard Emerson's early work on the theory intertwined with both Homans and Blau's ideas.Homans believed that social exchange theory was based on reinforcement principles.According to Emerson, Exchange is not a theory, but a framework from which other theories can converge and be compared to structural functionalism.In social exchange, self-interest is not a negative thing; rather, when self-interest is recognized, it will act as the guiding force of interpersonal relationships for the advancement of both parties' self-interest"—Michael Roloff (1981) Thibaut and Kelley see the mutual interdependence of persons as the central problem for the study of social behavior.They developed a theoretical framework based on the interdependence of actors.They also highlighted social implications of different forms of interdependence such as reciprocal control.Under his perspective every individual is trying to maximize his wins.Blau stated that once this concept is understood, it is possible to observe social exchanges everywhere, not only in market relations, but also in other social relations like friendship.Social exchange process brings satisfaction when people receive fair returns for their expenditures.The major difference between social and economic exchange is the nature of the exchange between parties.Neoclassic economic theory views the actor as dealing not with another actor but with a market and environmental parameters, such as market price.

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