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Title: George%20C.%20Homans

George C. Homans
  • Born in Boston, Massachusetts
  • August 11, 1910
  • Homans entered Harvard College in 1928 with
  • an area of concentration in English and
  • American literature.
  • In the 1930s he attended a faculty-student
  • seminar at Harvard with Pareto.
  • In 1939 he became a Harvard faculty member,
  • a lifelong affiliation in which he taught both
  • sociology and medieval history.
  • In 1964 Homans was elected President of the
  • American Sociological Association.

Homans continued
  • Homanss work is divided into two phases
  • The first phase is considered inductive and the
    second phase is considered deductive.
  • Credited as the founder of behavioral sociology
    and the social exchange theory.
  • Other social exchange theorists John Thibaut,
    Harold Kelley, Peter Blau.
  • Died in Cambridge, Massachusetts May 29, 1989.

  • English Villagers of the Thirteenth Century
  • The Human Group (1950)
  • Social Behavior as Exchange (1958)
  • Social Behavior Its Elementary Forms (1961,
    revised 1974)
  • Coming to My Sense The Autobiography of a
    Sociologist (1984)

Link to Behavioral Psychology
  • Operant conditioning the use of consequences
  • to modify the occurrence and form of behavior.
  • - Skinner and the pigeon experiment
  • This kind of psychologist is not interested
  • in how the behavior was learned learning
  • theory is a poor name for his Skinners field.
  • Instead, he is interested in what determines the
    rate of emission
  • of learned behavior, whether pecks at a target or
    something else.
  • -Homans

Sources http//
Operant Conditioning
  • Satiation the rate of behavior falls off if the
    behavior is often reinforced.
  • When the pigeon is given much more corn each time
    it pecks, the less hungry it will become and the
    less it pecks.
  • Extinction the rate of emission of behavior
    stops when it is not reinforced.
  • If the pecking is not reinforced with corn,
    eventually the pigeon will stop pecking.
  • Cost aversive stimulation, results in a decrease
    in the emission of behavior.
  • Fatigue is an example of a cost.
  • Other examples A Clockwork Orange, treatment for

An Exchange Paradigm
  • Homans notes that Skinners pigeon experiment
    cannot really be an exchange since the behavior
    of the pigeon hardly determines the behavior the
  • In the case of two men, however, where exchange
    is real and determination is equal, each is
    emitting behavior reinforced to some degree by
    the behavior of the other.
  • Smiling, nodding, furrowing of the brow, etc.
  • Talk show hosts
  • NOTE The concern is not how each learned in the
    past the behavior he emits or the behavior he
    finds reinforcing.
  • Values reinforcers that which strengthens a
  • As he emits behavior, each man may incur costs,
    and each man has more than one course of behavior
    open to him.

An Exchange Paradigm
  • The problem is not, as it is often stated,
    merely, what a mans values are, what he has
    learned in the past to find reinforcing, but how
    much of any one value his behavior is getting him
  • - Homans

The Influence Process
  • Cohesiveness anything that attracts people to
    take part in a group.
  • Two kinds of reinforcing activity social
    approval and activity valuable in other ways,
    such as doing something interesting (Festinger).
  • Communication/Interaction measure of the
    frequency of emission of valuable and costly
    verbal behavior.

The Influence Process
  • The more cohesive a group is, the more valuable
    the social approval or activity the members
    exchange with one another and the greater the
    average frequency of interaction the members.
  • Question What is an example of a group thats
    cohesiveness is proportionate to the social
    approval and activities members exchange with
    each other?

The Influence Process
  • Conformer people whose activity the other group
    members find valuable.
  • Since members are satiated by the conformers
    behavior, interaction with him/her is less.
  • Deviates a member whose activity is not
    particularly valuable.
  • Interaction with a deviant is high in order to
    increase the cohesiveness of the group. However,
    if the deviate fails to change his behavior and
    subsequently reinforce the other members, they
    start to withhold social approval from him/her.

Practical Equilibrium
  • We sometimes observe equilibrium, that for
    the time we are with a group-and it is often
    short-there is no great change in the values of
    the variables we choose to measure.

Practical Equilibrium
  • The more closely a members activity conforms to
    the norms of the group, the more interaction and
    liking choices he gets from them too.
  • Other variables affect the relationship between
    liking and conformity. For instance, if the
    person who conforms the most also exerts some
    authority over the group, members may like this
    person less than might have otherwise.

  • An incidental advantage of an exchange theory is
    that it might bring sociology closer to
    economics-that science of man most advanced, most
    capable of application, and, intellectually, most
    isolated. Economics studies exchange carried out
    under special circumstances and with a most
    useful built-in numerical measure of value.
  • -Homans
  • Discussion Address the critique that Homans
    social exchange theory reduces human interaction
    to a purely rational process that arises from
    economic theory.

Social Behavior as Exchange (1958)Profit and
Social Control
  • Less valuable actions by an individual member
    lead to less value reinforcement from other
  • Less valuable actions, however, mean a reduction
    in costs which off set the loss in sentiment

Profit and Social Control cont.
  • Problem of social control
  • So, why does every members behavior persist?
  • If this were true behaviors would not stabilize
  • People stabilize their behavior at the point
    where they are doing the best they can for
    themselves under the circumstances.
  • Their actions may not be the rational best
  • Homans support for this theory lack of another

Profit and Social Control cont.
  • Supportive Experiment H.B. Gerard The
    Anchorage of Opinions in FacetoFace Groups

Profit and Social Control cont.
  • Formed artificial groups to discuss a topic and
    to express their opinions about the outcome of
    the discussion.
  • Types of groups
  • High-attraction people would like one another
  • Low-attraction people would not like one
  • Measured opinions during and after discussion
    looking at the number of subjects who changed
    their opinions to meet those of the group
    majority or a paid participant.

Profit and Social Control cont.
  • Percentage of subjects changing toward someone in
    the group
  • Percentage of subjects changing toward the paid

Group type Agreement Mild Disagreement Strong Disagreement
High-attraction 0 12 44
Low-attraction 0 15 9
Group type Agreement Mild Disagreement Strong Disagreement
High-attraction 7 13 25
Low-attraction 20 38 8
Profit and Social Control cont.
  • Gerard found more shifting of opinions toward the
    group majority, and less shifting of opinions
    toward the paid participant in the
    high-attraction group as compared to the
    low-attraction group?
  • Question Based on Homans notions of value and
    reinforcement, how would you explain this outcome?

Profit and Social Control cont.
  • If you think that members of a group have much to
    give you in this case, acceptance you are
    more apt to give them much in return here, a
    change in opinion. Otherwise you will not
    receive the reward.
  • If you feel the group has little to offer you,
    you will give it little value and will not be
    willing to sacrifice much cost.

Profit and Social Control cont.
  • Homanss explanation
  • Participants expected 2 different types of
    reinforcement from their group
  • acceptance from their agreement with the group
  • maintenance of ones personal integrity from
    sticking to their own opinion when in opposition
    to most of the group

Profit and Social Control cont.
  • Participants assign value to each type of
  • Those in the high-attraction group assign a
    higher value to acceptance.
  • Value for maintenance of personal integrity
    depends on the subjects original position in
    relation to the others in the group

Profit and Social Control cont.
  • Rewards are in competition with one another
    rewards are alternatives to each other.
  • Profit Rewards Cost
  • The cost of a particular action is the equivalent
    to the foregone value of the alternative reward.

Profit and Social Control cont.
  • High-Attraction group
  • Agreement subjects they get much in acceptance
    and has to sacrifice little of personal
    integrity. Therefore, they have a high profit
    and re not likely to change their opinion
  • Strong disagreement subjects get much reward for
    maintaining their personal integrity, but they
    also have to sacrifice much in group acceptance.
    Therefore they have low profit and are more
    likely to change their opinion.

Profit and Social Control cont.
  • Low Attraction group
  • Mild disagreement subjects receive little reward
    for maintenance of personal integrity, but have
    little cost in acceptance either. Therefore,
    their profit is low, and they are likely to
    change their opinion.
  • Strong disagreement high reward for maintenance
    of personal integrity and low cost for
    acceptance. Therefore, they have a high profit
    and are not likely to change their opinion.

Profit and Social Control cont.
  • Thus, change in behavior is greatest when ones
    perceived profit is the least.
  • When a person reaches their highest profit i.e.
    does the best they can in a given situation -
    behavior is least likely to change and it becomes

Profit and Social Control cont.
  • In a social group or organization, an individuals
    profit is partly at the mercy of others. Thus,
    an individuals profit may not be as high in a
    group it they would be individually.

Profit and Social Control cont.
  • Given the Homanss explanation that profit
    reward cost, and his ideas about social
    control, do you accept his theory that an
    individuals behavior stabilizes when people do
    the best they can? Can you think of any examples
    that would either support or contradict his
    ideas? Do you see any limitations in his theory?

Social Behavior as Exchange (1958)Distributive
  • Practical equilibrium is more probable than the
    individual pursuit of profit left to itself.
  • An Example of this is behaviors of subgroups.
  • 2 groups working together the group who has
    more responsibility (more pressure, larger
    stakes) demands more pay than the other group
  • This is not a dispute over absolute wages, but
    over wage differentials.

Distributive Justice cont.
  • Wage and responsibility provide status within the
  • Known as status factors
  • When status factors are in line there is status
  • Leads workers to not complain about their
    position relative to other workers
  • Pay is the reward
  • Responsibility (foregone peace of mind) is the

Distributive Justice cont.
  • Distributive justice claims that if the costs of
    on person is higher than another, the rewards
    shall be higher as well.
  • The inverse of this theory should also be true
    and is known as noblesse oblige.

Distributive Justice cont.
  • Profit Reward Cost
  • Pay is the reward
  • Responsibility (foregone peace of mind) is the
  • Though the reward and cost are different, profit
    should be the same
  • Distributive justice is one condition of group

Distributive Justice cont.
  • Do you believe that Homanss theory of
    distributive justice is a reasonable account of
    how social equilibrium is achieve in society?
    What problems or limitations could arise in this

Social Behavior as Exchange (1958)Exchange and
Social Structure
  • Example of Social Structure
  • Agents of an investigative firm have the duty to
    prepare reports for the law. Reports have to be
    prepared carefully, in proper form and agents
    have to take strict account of any regulations.
    Agent are reluctant to ask their supervisors
    questions believing it would reflect negatively
    on their ability to do their job. Instead, they
    seek assistance from other agents.

Exchange and Social Structure cont.
  • Because of the amount of consultations between
    agents, the value of any one consultation becomes
    deflated and the cost of the many interruptions
    becomes inflated
  • The more prestigious agents have more
    consultations relative to other agents. Thus
    their prestige was given less value and their
    interruptions were more costly. For less
    prestigious agents, a feeling of inferiority was
    more costly.

Exchange and Social Structure cont.
  • The result More equal exchanges between agents.
  • More prestigious agents consulted less often with
    other highly competent agents
  • Less prestigious agents interacted more often
    with other agents at their same level

Exchange and Social Structure cont.
  • Rewards advice
  • Cost time lost because of interruptions,
    feelings of inferiority.
  • More prestigious agents sacrificed less cost with
    less interaction among other highly prestigious
  • Less prestigious agents had less feelings of
    inferiority by interacting with other agents at
    their same level.

Exchange and Social Structure cont.
  • This theory illustrates how social structures in
    equilibrium might be the result of a process of
    exchanging behavior rewarding and costly in
    different degrees, in which, the increment of
    reward and cost varied with the frequency of the
    behavior i.e. with the frequency of the

Exchange and Social Structure cont.
  • Can you think of any other examples of how social
    interactions have lead to the establishment of
    social structures? How have these examples
    influenced the social equilibrium?

The Logic ofCollective Action
Mancur Olson
  • Born 1932 Died 1998
  • A leading American economist and social scientist
  • He made contributions to institutional economics
    on the role of private property, taxation, public
    goods, collective action, and contract rights in
    economic development.

  • In his first book, The Logic of Collective
    Action Public Goods and the Theory of Groups,
    he said that only a benefit reserved strictly for
    group members will motivate one to join and
    contribute to the group. This means that
    individuals will act collectively to provide
    private goods, but not public goods.

Collective Action
  • His most famous contribution is the idea of
    collective action.
  • Collective action is the pursuit of a goal or set
    of goals by more than one person.
  • The premise of this theory was that the rational
    person would not participate in collective action
    because its benefits could not be mutually

  • Mancur Olson made the highly controversial claim
    that individual rational choice leads to
    situations where individuals with more resources
    will carry a higher burden in the provision of
    the public good than poorer ones. Poorer
    individuals will usually have little choice but
    to opt for the free rider strategy, i.e. they
    will attempt to benefit from the public good
    without contributing to its provision. This also
    encourages the under-production (inefficient
    production) of the public good.
  • However, further theoretical analysis showed that
    this is not the case when individuals have
    widely-differing perceptions of the utility of
    the public good.

  • "But it is not in fact true that the idea that
    groups will act in their self-interest follows
    logically from the premise of rational and
    self-interested behavior. It does not follow,
    because all of the individuals in a group would
    gain if they achieved their group objective, that
    they would act to achieve that objective, even if
    they were all rational and self-interested.
    Indeed unless the number of individuals in a
    group is quite small, or unless there is coercion
    or some other special device to make individuals
    act in their common interest, rational,
    self-interested individuals will not act to
    achieve their common or group interests."(pg. 2)

  • "Since a uniform price must prevail in such a
    market, a firm cannot expect a higher price for
    itself unless all of the other firms in the
    industry have this higher price. But a firm in a
    competitive market also has an interest in
    selling as much as it can, until the cost of
    producing another unit exceeds the price of that
    unit. In this there is no common interest each
    firm's interest is directly opposed to that of
    every other firm, for the more the firms sell,
    the lower the price and income for any given
    firm. In short, while all firms have a common
    interest in a higher price, they have
    antagonistic interests where output is
    concerned."(pg. 9)

  • OPEC
  • National Art Association

Discussion Questions
  • What are some reasons that people would
    participate in collective action if others could
    reap the benefits of their work?
  • What are some other examples of organizations
    that are built upon the idea of collective action?

James Samuel Coleman Rights to Act
James Samuel Coleman
  • Born May 12, 1926 in Bedford Indiana
  • Died March 25, 1995
  • Coleman was a sociological theorist who studied
    sociology of education and public policy
  • Coleman received his bachelor's degree in
    Chemical Engineering from Purdue in 1949, and
    received his Ph.D. from Columbia in 1955
  • Colemans Foundations of Social Theory stands as
    one of the most important sociological
    contributions of the 20th century.

What are Rights?
  • If a person has a legal right to take an action
    or to use or dispose of a good or a resource or
    to control the outcome of an event, this implies
    that the person may do so without interference
    from legal authorities. Clear cut definition.
  • None of this causes any problems, however, the
    problems that arise lies in the broad area of
    rights that are not covered by law.

What are Rights?
  • For example, if Bob feels that he has the right
    to smoke at a given place and time but Susan does
    not, it cannot be said that Bob has the right,
    despite the fact that he believes he does. It can
    only be said that the right to smoke at that time
    and place is in dispute.
  • According to Coleman, it can be provisionally
    said that an actor has a right to carry out an
    action or to have an action carried out when all
    who are affected by exercise of that right accept
    the action without dispute.

What are Rights?
  • This conception of rights implies that there is
    not a single objective structure of rights of
    control, but a structure of rights of control
    subjectively held by each actor in the system

Private Worlds
  • The private world of an actor consist of the full
    distribution of rights as perceived by the actor,
    together with the actors interest.
  • Two sources of conflict in the system of private
  • One source is a difference in perceptions of
    where rights lie One actor perceives a right to
    be in his/her hands, and second actor perceives
    the right not to be in the first actors hands,
    but in his own.
  • A second source is a conflict of interest that
    can exist even when the locus of rights is
    perceived the same by all.

Private Worlds
  • In this conception there are as many systems of
    actions as there are actors and each actor has a
    set of interest in events, as well as a
    subjective conception of rights of control for
    all events in which he/she has some interest.
  • This interests of different actors taken together
    produce an overall structure of interest.
  • Each actors subjective conception of rights
    cover covers all events in which he/she has some
    interest, as well as some in which he/she does
  • This is a portion of overall structure of rights
    that overlaps extensively with that of others
    and the different conceptions may be

The Example
Nonsmokers conception of who holds the right
1 2
3 4
Smokers conception of who holds the right
Who holds smoking rights?
  • Smokers Nonsmokers
  • Cell Conception Conception
  • 1 Smokers Smokers
  • 2 Smokers Nonsmokers
  • Nonsmokers Smokers
  • Nonsmokers Nonsmokers

Who holds the right of an action?
  • There is a general tendency for the conceptions
    of different persons about who holds the rights
    into agreement overtime.
  • The actions that take place in cells 2 and 3 of
    the table tend to bring conceptions into
    consistency. The dispute that arises in cell 2
    leads each actor to recognize that his conception
    of rights is not universally held. If the dispute
    involves more than two persons, one side will
    recognize that it is in the minority and may
    yield to the majority. In cell 3 the actions of
    the actors produce a less strong movement toward
    consistency, because there is no confrontation.
    There will, however, be a recognition that ones
    own conception of rights is not universally held,
    and some movement toward the local majority can
    be expected.

Equilibrium Changes
  • In the case of smoking, exogenous changes such as
    increased concerns with health, coupled with
    evidence about the negative effects of smoking on
    the health of smokers and that of others nearby
    have moved the conceptions of smoking rights in
    many settings out of cell 1, an equilibrium
    state, and into cell 2 or 3.

Equilibrium Changes
  • If nonsmokers are, as might be expected, more
    health conscious and quicker to accept evidence
    of negative health effects of smoking than are
    smokers, the movement will in most instances be
    from cell 1 to cell 2. As long as the exogenous
    effects continue to move people from a conception
    that smokers have the right to control smoking to
    the conception that nonsmokers have it,
    majorities against smokers rights to smoke will
    develop in both cells 2 and 3, and this will move
    the system toward the new equilibrium, in which
    all agree that nonsmokers control those rights.

Equilibrium Changes
  • Once the new equilibrium is established, it is
    meaningful to say that nonsmokers hold the rights
    regarding smoking just as it is meaningful to
    say that smokers hold the rights regarding
    smoking when there is an equilibrium in cell 1.

Formal Authority
  • Example A memorandum distributed by a library
    administrator to faculty members who had studies
    in the University of Chicago library in the fall
    of 1988
  • In re
  • Smoking in Faculty Studies I have been asked
    to request that faculty who smoke in their
    studies please keep the study door closed. It
    seems a reasonable request and so I am
    distributing this note and asking that smokers
    cooperate with their neighbors. I also wish to
    remind everyone that smoking is not permitted in
    the corridors.
  • Thank you.

Formal Authority
  • As this memorandum indicates, formal authority
    over actions of faculty members in their library
    studies that affect others is held by library
    administrators. The right of control over actions
    is implicitly given up by a faculty member in
    acquiring a study.

Formal Authority
  • In view of the theory of rights as based on
    power-weighted consensus, one may ask, what can
    be said about how rights ought to be distributed.
    That is, what distribution of rights is right?
    The implication of this theory is that the
    question is unanswerable in general it can be
    answered only in the context of a particular
    system of action, and there the answer is that
    the existing distribution of rights is right.
  • What is right is defined within the system
    itself, by the actors interests and relative
    power in that system. The theory implies that
    moral philosophers searching for the right
    distribution of rights are searching for the pot
    of gold at the end of the rainbow.