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Chapter 10

PSYC 215 Chapter Notes - Chapter 10: Social Exchange Theory, Processing Fluency, Attachment Theory

Course Code
PSYC 215
Mark Baldwin

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Chapter 10 summary
Research in relationships
Mostly longitudinal studies of existing relationships
Challenge of self-selection (researchers cannot be sure if behaviors reflect actual
experiences or results of gravitation towards both conditions)
Importance of relationships
We have a biological need (not just a desire) to belong in a relationship
Having relationships increases likelihood of passing on one’s genes
Long-term relationships facilitate reproduction and makes raising children
Friendships have evolved to diminish competition and aggression
Relationships have universal traits that are maintained across cultures and
generations: caregiving between mother and child, wrestling between sibling,
flirtation between young people, domination between adolescent males, etc.
Needs are satiable (like drinking when you are thirsty).
We only need a certain amount of relationships
College students usually only have about six friends
When are not satisfied in relationships, we create new bonds (like prisoners who do
not see their families and create new bonds with other inmates)
Harlow (1958): baby monkey and mother surrogate experiments. One surrogate
was made of wire and provided food and water. The other was made of cloth and
provided comfort. Baby monkeys preferred the one made of cloth. These monkeys
were not normal when they reached adolescence (they were raised in isolation).
They were fearful, had awkward social interactions, engaged in inappropriate sexual
For humans: mortality, mental disorder, suicide rates, and crime rates are higher for
people who are divorced, unmarried, or widowed.
Also the case for homosexual relationships
Having supports from others contributes to good health
Types of relationships
Communal relationship: a relationship in which the individuals eel a special
responsibility for one another and give an receive according to the principle of need;
such relationship are often long-term
Exchange relationship: a relationship in which individuals feel little responsibility
toward one another; giving and receiving are governed by concerns about equity
and reciprocity; such relationships are usually for short-term
People in East Asian and Latin American societies mostly have communal
People in European and Commonwealth countries have more exchange
See relationships are contractual
Catholics are more likely to have communal relationships that Protestants
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Communal relationships
Based on a sense of “oneness”, family-like sharing of common identity
These people come to resemble one another in their timing of laughter and
emotional experiences
Give and receive according to who needs the most at any given time
Exchange relationships
Trade-based relationship
You get what you put into the relationship and what you receive is returned in
proportion of what you give
E.g., interactions with salespeople and bureaucrats
Rewards and social exchange in interpersonal relationships
People like to gravitate around those who made them feel good
If you find someone funny and have a lot of fun with them
If you have a friend who is a really good listener
In relationships between heterosexual women and gay men, there are mutual
rewards because you can see things from the perspective of the sex you are
attracted to through a relationship with someone who you know doesn’t have a
sexual agenda
To get others to like you, you have to reward them
Some use flattery to get to what they want (gold diggers who fake attraction
towards wealthy people), but sometimes these wealthy people are able to see
through the intentions of the gold diggers
Social exchange theory: a theory based on the idea that how people feel about a
relationship depends on their assessments of its costs and rewards
People are willing to pay certain costs to obtain rewards
But prefer relationships where rewards exceed costs
If rewarding interactions are not available, we will accept for the costs to exceed
rewards but only to the smallest point
Standard that influence evaluations of rewards and costs in relationships
Comparison level: expectations about what people think they deserve or
expect to get out of a relationship
The higher the comparison level, the more people expect from their
E.g., someone would stay in an abusive relationship because they have
low comparison levels
Comparison level for alternatives: expectations about what people think they
can get out of alternative relationships
E.g., having a bunch of attractive suitors knocking at your door will
increase your comparison level for alternatives
E.g., a person who has a high comparison level for alternatives will be
unable to stay in a relationship for more than a few months
Equity theory: the idea that people are motivated to pursue fairness, or equity, in
their relationships; a relationship is considered equitable when the benefits are
proportionate to the effort both people put into it
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Relationships with too many rewards or too few costs may seem unfair
Both partners should have similar costs and rewards in their favor
Attachment styles
Attachment theory: the idea that early attachments with parents and other
caregivers can shape relationships for a person’s whole life.
Infants are unable to take care of themselves when they are born (unlike some
mammals), which promotes parent-infant attachments
Children develop “working models” of themselves and how relationships function
based on their parents’ availability and responsiveness to them.
Shape our future relationships
The Strange Situation (Mary Ainsworth): babies and caregivers entered an
unfamiliar room with toys. A stranger walked in while the baby was playing with the
toys. The stranger stayed, and the caregiver left the room. After three minutes, the
caregiver returned and comforted the baby if he was upset (babies were typically
distressed because of the separation).
If the caregiver responded quickly to baby’s distress, the attachment was
secure (they were comfortable exploring the room even when they weren’t
in contact with their caregiver)
If the caregiver was unreliable in their responses to the baby (sometimes
intruded in their playing and sometimes not), the attachment was anxious
(babies were distresses in new environments, and we not as comforted by
their caregiver when this occurred)
If the caregiver was frequently rejecting the baby, the attachment was
avoidant (baby did not want the attention of the caregiver)
Theory also applies to adult relationships
Adults seek comfort and security in their relationships
Three types:
Secure: “I find it relatively easy to get close to others and am comfortable
depending on them and having them depend on me. I don’t often worry
about being abandoned or about someone getting too close.”
Avoidant: “I am somewhat uncomfortable being close; I find it difficult to
trust them completely difficult to allow myself to depend on them. I am
nervous when anyone gets close, and often, love partners want me to be
more intimate than I feel comfortable being.”
Anxious-ambivalent: “I find that others are reluctant to get as close as I
would like. I often worry that my partner doesn’t really love me or won’t stay
with me, I want to merge completely with another person, and this desire
sometimes scares people off.”
Emerging consensus is that the distribution of attachment variations among people
is more accurately represented in terms of dimensions instead of types.
Anxiety dimension of attachment: a facet of attachment that captures he
degree to which a person is worried about rejection and abandonment by
relationship partners
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