Research Archive

Temporal Dynamics of Social Exchange and the Development of Solidarity: "Testing the Waters" vs. "Taking a Leap of Faith"

Ko Kuwabara, Oliver Sheldon

Publication type: Forthcoming article

Research Archive Topic: Leadership

Abstract

Contemporary exchange theorists have made concerted efforts to unpack the micro-processes that transform repeated exchanges into an exchange relation. We extend this line of work to study how temporal dynamics of exchange affect the development of solidarity. Some exchange relations develop gradually over time as actors "test the water" and manage the risks and uncertainties of exchange (incremental exchange). Other relations get off to a quick start as actors take "leaps of faith" in each other (constant exchange). Do these patterns result in different levels of relational bonding? We examined this question in three laboratory studies designed to manipulate two dimensions of repeated exchange: exchange level (how much actors exchange) and frequency (how often actors exchange). In each study, participants played a series of social exchange tasks involving sending and returning benefits or resources to anonymous partners in dyads. The results show that exchanging incrementally in exchange level promotes cohesion, but exchanging incrementally in frequency undermines it. These results affirm the importance of exchange frequency but demonstrate an opposite effect for exchange level: compared to exchanging constantly, exchanging incrementally in exchange level creates more expressive value to reinforce cohesion, even while resulting in less instrumental benefits.
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Citation

Kuwabara, Ko, and Oliver Sheldon. "Temporal Dynamics of Social Exchange and the Development of Solidarity: 'Testing the Waters' vs. 'Taking a Leap of Faith.'" Social Forces (forthcoming).


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