Friday, November 9, 2012

Exchange Theory: George Homans (Blog #1)

The reward for wearing boots in the snow, before leaving your house, is to make sure that you are warm.  The benefit of being warm is that you will not get sick.  Always stay warm in the winter unless you reap negative effects. That is the motive for wearing boots in the snow.

            George Homans was an American sociologist that founded the exchange theory.  In terms of social behavior, a sociologist is interested in what determines changes of the behavior of an individual.  Homans believed that actions and behaviors are only enacted when there is a definite motive.  There has to be a reason why the person is behaving in a specific manner. They need a motive.  He actually was trying to target Talcott Parson’s theory that social behaviors are not a product of society.  According to the book, Contemporary Sociological Theory: An Integrated Multi-Level Approach, by D. Paul Johnson, Homans “targeted explicitly against Talcott Parsons’ analysis of how individual’s actions contribute to the fulfillment of the functional needs of society” (Johnson: 2008, Pp. 169)  Homans stressed that his study on the behaviors on individuals was not determined by society and the individuals’ environment.  There had to be a pure drive or aim for one to perform an action.  Along with fellow sociologist, Peter Blau, Homans also realized the purpose in a person’s behavior was to receive a certain type of reward. Why would I rather eat vegetables than junk food? What is the benefit or reward on exercising rather than watching the television for five hours a day? In the book, Classical and Contemporary Sociological Theory: Text and Readings, by Laura Desfor Edles and Scott Appelrouth, people are “portrayed as strategic actors who use the resources they have at their disposal in an effort to optimize their rewards” (Edles and Appelrouth: 2008, Pp. 438)  As you can see, the benefit of eating healthy food and exercise would lead to a healthy lifestyle.  The list of rewards continues with possibly healthy looking skin which will prevent acne or any other blemishes.  Without blemishes, one would have a high level of self-confidence.  The motive or behavior that was once a small and personal choice, has now led to a fulfilled person inside and out, mentally, physically, and emotionally.  Therefore, according to Homans, individuals make decisions based on the positives and negatives of their choices. The negative of sitting in front of the television all day, with an ice cream carton on your lap, would lead to a lazy and obese lifestyle.  You might also feel very sluggish every morning and may not feel as social.  This lifestyle can hurt your confidence. However, if you decide to go outside and jog every morning, you’ll feel refreshed and happy. Exercising will creates endorphins, and endorphins make you happy.  Who wouldn’t want to feel happy every day? Also, instead of eating a carton of ice cream, what if you started sipping a healthy fruit smoothie once in a while. Eating healthily would make you to feel good every morning.  Hence, you will have restored a level of self-confidence.  Homan’s exchange theory is on a micro-level. In this sense, he was able to create a three dynamic model that would correlate.  Therefore, if one changed, then the others would change as well.  The three concepts are interaction, activities, and sentiments.  These three concepts are necessary for individuals to function in society.  Homans termed the requirement for persons to incorporate these concepts in their environment as the external system. Basically, the external system was necessary for the survival of people. In other words, it’s required that people maintain jobs, in order to get paid so they can have shelter, food, and clothing. The external system would be exemplified as if a person was going for an interview for a job; they need to portray the basic requirements.  They need the right attire, have a resume, strong communication skills, and experience, based on the job’s requirements.  The second system is known as the internal system.  The internal system focuses on the behavior of the individual outside of the basic survival requirements.  For example, let’s agree that the person that had the interview got the job.  At the job, he or she was able to interact with employees and establish friendships.  They are able to enjoy their work environment by attending work parties and spend time out of work as well.  The external system was formed for an individual to survive by attaining a job and the internal system allows the individual to act informally with others in his or her environment. In Contemporary Sociological Theory: An Integrated Multi-Level Approach, the external and internal systems are also linked so if a change occurs in one system, it will likely produce change in the other” (Johnson: 2008, Pp. 170)  Both the external and internal systems work of each other so an individual can exchange behaviors for rewards and live simply for the enjoyment. 
Desfor, Edles Laura and Scott Appelrouth. 2008. Classical and Contemporary Sociological Theory: 
               Text and Readings. Thousand Oaks, California: Pine Forge Press
Johnson, Paul D. 2008. Contemporary Sociological Theory: An Integrated Multi-Level Approach.           
              Spring Street, New York: Springer Science + Business Media, LLC


  1. It’s really a nice and helpful piece of information. I’m glad that you shared this helpful info with us. Please keep us informed like this.
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  2. At the beginning of your blog, you started with George Homans "stressing" over the fact that his study on the behaviors on individuals was not determined by society and the individuals’ environment.

    Yet you ended the blog by giving an example of an individual trying to fit along with society by the internal and external system...
    You also mentioned about an individual feeling unconfined with his/her self since they don't work out, wouldn't that be going against what you stated about George Homans statement about the behaviors on individuals was not being determined by society ???