The early variations of Social Exchange Theory stem from Alvin Ward Gouldner's (1960) norm of reciprocity, which simply argues that people ought to return benefits given to them in a relationship. Peter M. Blau built on the work done by George C. Homans in Exchange and Power in Social Life (1964) and by Thibault and Kelley in 'The Social Psychology of Groups' (1952).
Later modifications to this theory focus attention on relational development and maintenance rules (see Murstein et al.). Other contributions to social exchange theory, including more detailed examination of motivations and processes by which relationships grow or dissolve, were made by many scholars.
A related theory, Social Penetration Theory, was introduced in the social psychology field in the 1970's by Irwin Altman and Dalmas Taylor. Social penetration theory is strongly tied to the communication field.
Another important work is Mark Knapp’s Social Intercourse: From Greeting to Goodbye. In this work, Knapp specifically defines stages of relationship development, including initiation, experimentation and bonding. In addition, Gerald Miller and Mark Steinburg’s book, Between People, added to the theory by noting the differences in the types of information we have about one another: cultural, sociological and psychological (Miller, 2005).
Katherine Miller outlines several major objections to or problems with the social exchange theory as developed from early seminal works:
It also is strongly seated in an individualist mindset, which may limit its application in and description of collectivist cultures.
Currently, Social Exchange Theory materializes in many different situations with the same idea of the exchange of resources. Homans once summarized the theory by stating:
Other applications that developed include fields such as anthropology, as evidenced in an article by Harumi Befu, which discusses cultural and social ideas and norms such as gift-giving and marriage.
A social exchange model of the employment relationship based on keeping tally of the psychological contract.
Jul 01, 2010; The workplace social exchange relationship is important in understanding organisational harmony and productivity. Social exchange...
Organizational Citizenship Behavior and Social Exchange: A Study of the Effects of Sources of Positive Benefits
Jan 01, 2005; ABSTRACT This study tested the differential relationships of social exchange with the organization and social exchange with the...