Publication Date



This article develops a theory that explains how and when emotions, produced by social exchange, generate stronger or weaker ties to relations, groups, or networks. It is argued that social exchange produces positive or negative global feelings, which are internally rewarding or punishing. The theory indicates that social units (relations, groups, networks) are perceived as a source of these feelings, contingent on the degree of jointness in the exchange task. The jointness of the task is greatest if (1) actors find it difficult to distinguish their individual effects on or contributions to solving the exchange task (nonseparability) and (2) actors perceive a shared responsibility for success or failure at the exchange task. The theory explicates the effects of different exchange structures on these conditions and, in turn, on cohesion and solidarity. Implications are developed for network-to-group transformations.


Suggested Citation
Lawler, E. J. (2001). An affect theory of social exchange [Electronic version]. American Journal of Sociology 107(2), 321-352.

Required Publisher Statement
© University of Chicago Press. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.