A recent debate in sociological exchange theory concerns which form of exchange is likely to promote relational cohesion in exchange relations. On the one hand, bilateral exchange — often associated with economic transactions — entails joint action to share mutual benefits, contributing to feelings of cohesion more than independent acts of giving from one person to another unilaterally, typical of social exchange (Lawler 2001). On the other hand, joint action entails dividing resources under binding terms of exchange that can strain relationships by underscoring competitive aspects of exchange (Molm 2010). The present research reconciles these divergent claims by testing a new model of exchange that combines key propositions from past theories to specify when, rather than whether, bilateral exchange promotes or undermines cohesion. Results from two laboratory experiments provide support for the model’s core claim that certain forms of bilateral exchange can reinforce cohesion, contrary to the enduring assumption that economic exchange undermines relational bonds.
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Kuwabara, Ko. "Cohesion, Cooperation, and the Value of Doing Things Together: How Economic Exchange Creates Relational Bonds in Exchange Relational Bonds." American Sociological Review 76, no. 6 (August 2011): 560-580.