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George Homans (1910-1989). Alex Jordahl and James Liu. Background. On August 11,1910,George Caspar Homans was born in Boston to a wealthy Brahmin-style family. Eldest of four children, followed by two sisters and a younger brother. Grandparents were part of the upper class.

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george homans 1910 1989
George Homans (1910-1989)

Alex Jordahl and James Liu

  • On August 11,1910,George Caspar Homans was born in Boston to a wealthy Brahmin-style family. Eldest of four children, followed by two sisters and a younger brother.
  • Grandparents were part of the upper class.
  • He greatly admired his father, Robert Homans.

Throughout George’s accomplishments as a naval officer, a newspaper man, and finally, a scholar, Robert was always there as a source of support and inspiration.

  • Benefited from his financially privileged household, following in the footsteps of previous generations of Homans.
  • 1934-1939 was a junior fellow at Harvard,

1939-1941 became an instructor of sociology.

1941-1945 served his country as a naval officer

  • in 1946 was re-employed by Harvard as associate professor of Sociology in the department founded and chaired by Parson. However, he strongly disagreed Parson’s Grand Theory, and didn’t think it was found on empirical observation and deductive reasoning.
  • Served as the president of the American Sociological Association (ASA) and spent his entire academic life at Harvard.
  • Got a Bachelor’s degree of English Literature from Harvard.
  • Learned much practical Sociology in an environment in which people were highly conscious of social relation.

(e.g. the membership to “final club” in Harvard depends on a mixture of equalities – personal as well as chose related to class, religion and ethnic background.)

  • As a wealthy Bostonian who seemed to take the anti-capitalist attack presented by Marxists personally, and the ideas of Pareto providing him with a defense.
  • Pareto’s idea influence a lot on Homans’ detailing the basic laws of psychology that guide human behavior, his application of general concepts associated with economics, and his desire to establish full deductive theories or explanations.
  • The publication of theHuman Group demonstrated a dramatic change in his theory.(from macro structural functionalism to micro individual interaction)
  • He contributed this theoretical shifts to the readings in experimental psychology and his preference for the idea of individualism.
  • Especially impressed by the psychological behaviorism best expressed by his colleague, the psychologist B.F. Skinner whose ideas played a major role in the thinking and development of Homan’s exchange theory.
intellectual influences bernard devoto
Intellectual InfluencesBernard DeVoto
  • Homans stated that he became the person who made the biggest single difference to his intellectual life.
  • Assigned Homans to read Bernard Mandeville’s The Fable of the Bees, and Pareto’s Sociologie generale.
  • “The greatest service Benny did me was to introduce me to Professor Lawrence Joseph Henderson.”
intellectual influence lawrence henderson
Intellectual InfluenceLawrence Henderson
  • Told him that to become a sociologist that he should learn about the work that he and his colleague Elton Mayo were conducting.
  • Led Homans into direct contact with the new work found in industrial sociology by himself and Mayo at the Harvard Business School.
  • Was a biochemist who was studying the physiological characteristics of industrial work
intellectual influences elton mayo
Intellectual InfluencesElton Mayo
  • A psychologist who was examining the human factor associated with industrial work.
  • Director of the famous studies conducted at the Hawthorne Plant of the Western Electric Company in Chicago.
  • Found out about binging in the Bank Wiring Room.
intellectual influences elton mayo1
Intellectual InfluencesElton Mayo
  • Homans conducted his own follow up study of the Bank Wiring Room years later and concluded that workers shared a common body of sentiments.
  • Much of Homans The Human Group was a theoretical reanalysis of a series of previous studies of such diverse subjects as work groups in factories, street gangs, the kinship system in primitive societies, and the structure of a declining New England community.
  • Was attempting to develop a theoretical scheme of interrelated propositions derived from observed regularities discovered in these studies.
intellectual influences elton mayo anthropology
Intellectual InfluencesElton Mayo/Anthropology
  • Mayo instructed his students to read books by prominent social anthropologists, especially those that compared aboriginal and modern societies in terms of social rituals in productive work.
  • Homans believed that aboriginal societies were quite similar and repeated themselves (in basic behavioral modes) in places so far in separated time and place that they could not have borrowed cultural ideas from one another.
  • Concluded that human nature was the same the world over.
  • The Human Group was partially rooted in the functionalist tradition of Durkheim and of the British anthropologists Malinowski and Radcliffe-Brown, but his subsequent work abandoned this functionalist viewpoint in favor of an exchange perspective.
intellectual influences anthropology malinowski
Intellectual InfluencesAnthropology - Malinowski
  • Influenced by his anthropological exchange considerations.
  • Was concerned with the role that exchange plays in social life
  • Spent years among the Trobriand Islanders of the Melanesian Islands, where he concluded that mutual exchange is the basis of social cohesion.
intellectual influences anthropology malinowski1
Intellectual InfluencesAnthropology - Malinowski
  • Found that reciprocy, the give and take principle, reigns supreme. Became a critical element in Homans’ exchange theory.
  • Concept of exchange itself was influenced by his discussion of “The Gift.”
  • Anthropologits and exchange theorists argue that a crucial aspect of gift exchanges bind society together through the mutual obligations and increases social cohesion.
intellectual influences elton mayo cont
Intellectual InfluencesElton Mayo Cont.
  • After exposing Homans to the ideas of anthropology, Mayo then gave Homans a second group of books, mostly on Durkheim.
  • Read Durkheim’s research related to suicide.
  • These readings upset Homans -Did not believe that the nature of society could determine the nature of the individual.
  • Broke away from the influence of Mayo and his focused turned toward B.F. Skinner.
intellectual influences b f skinner
Intellectual InfluencesB.F. Skinner
  • With his arrival at Harvard in 1948,came psychological behaviorism, the famous pigeon studies, and the Skinner Box.
  • Regarded theories such as structural functionalism, conflict, symbolic interactionism, ethnomethodology, and phenomenology as “mystical enterprises.”
  • Believed these theories distract sociologists from the only concrete entities of study, behavior, and the consequences that make such behavior more or less likely to occur.
  • Culture is made by behaviors and concepts.
intellectual influences b f skinner1
Intellectual InfluencesB.F. Skinner
  • Ideas and values are useless, what needs to be understood are such things as costs and rewards.
  • Internal states are irrelevant because they are unobservable.
  • Was a pioneer of operant behavior. (Homans would use the world activity instead of operant)
  • Fascinated by the prospects of the control of behavior of animals and human beings.
intellectual influences b f skinner2
Intellectual InfluencesB.F. Skinner
  • In formulating his version of exchange theory, Homans turned to the behavioral school of experimental psychology founded by Skinner.
  • Homans treated the social exchange between Skinner and his pigeons as the paradigm of all social exchange.
  • Homan’s sociology is an attempt to build a theory about social life from the basic behavioristic propositions derived from Skinner’s psychology of operant conditioning.
  • Believed that all behavior can be reduced to psychological organismic behavior.
intellectual influences george simmel
Intellectual InfluencesGeorge Simmel
  • One of the first early major sociological theorists who attempted to identify universal characteristics of human behavior.
  • Came to believe that peoples motives to make contact with others, was to satisfy needs and pursue individual goals.
  • Suggested even though people do not receive equal returns, their interactions are always based on some expectation of reciprocity, and therefore should be viewed as kinds of exchanges.
concepts and contributions exchange theory
Concepts and Contributions Exchange Theory
  • Basic premise: people will continue to engage in behaviors they find rewarding and cease to engage in behaviors where the costs have proven to be too high in the past.
  • Self-interest was the universal motive that made the world go around.
  • A reaction against Parsons, Durkheim, and structural functionalism in general.
  • Sociology should concern itself with explaining individual behavior and interaction and have little interest in consciousness or large-scale structures and institutions.
concepts and contributions exchange theory1
Concepts and Contributions Exchange Theory
  • Focusing on what people get and what they contribute in turn to the relationship.
  • Homans believed that in very interaction something is being exchanged. Not only in the economic realm but also come in the form of approval, esteem, love, affection, allegiance, and other nonmaterialistic or symbolic expressions.
  • In industrial observations, for example.

If workers feel that they are paid unfairly they may form a union, bargain collectively with the employer or strike. But at the same time, they will weigh the potential benefits against the cost. When multiple value are involved, the rational calculation of benefits and costs becomes very difficult. SELECT PHOBIA

concepts and contributions exchange theory2
Concepts and Contributions Exchange Theory
  • In short, Homans’ exchange theory “investigaes social behaviors as an exchange or activity, tangible, or intangible, and more or less rewarding or costly, between at least two persons”
  • He concluded five clear-cut propositions that he felt explains all human behavior. These propositions are the cornerstone of his exchange theory.
human exchange propositions the success proposition the principle of reward
Human Exchange Propositions The Success Proposition: The Principle of Reward
  • If in the past an activity was rewarded, then the individual is more likely to repeat the activity in the present.

a, The shorter the interval of time between the behavior and the reward, the more likely the person will repeat it.

b, the more often a particular action of a person is rewarded, the more likely the person is to perform that same action.

  • Although in the pursuit of rewards there will be certain costs, as long as the rewards are greater than the costs, the activities are likely to be repeated next time.
the stimulus proposition the principle of experience
The Stimulus Proposition: the Principle of Experience
  • If a similar stimulus, or set of stimuli, present themselves and resemble an originally rewarded activity, the individual is likely to repeat that course of action. The more often, in a given period of time, an individual’s activities reward the activity of another, the more often the other will emit the activity.
  • It reflect the concepts of value and quantity.

Quantity means the frequency of the reward during given period of time; Value refer to the degree of the reinforcement which vary from one person to another

  • The connection between the stimuli and the action is subject to both generalization and discrimination.
the value proposition reward and punishment the principle of value of outcome
The Value Proposition: Reward and Punishment, the Principle of Value of Outcome
  • Rewards vary by the degree of value.
  • The variable, value, may take either a positive(reward) or negative(punishment) form.
  • Two classes of reward, intrinsic reward and the avoidance of punishment; Two classes of punishment, intrinsic punishment and the withholding of a reward.
  • That means punishment or its threat, in addition to reward, becomes a potentially powerful motivator of action.
combination of the first three propositions
Combination of the First Three Propositions
  • Rationality Proposition or Rational Choice

These first three proposition assign value to our actions as individuals seek to collect favorable outcomes.

  • Homans believed, during the procedure of making decision people often follow this formula,

A=pV, A means the likelihood of doing certain action, V means the value of the result, p means the probability of getting the result.

If someone is choosing one within two course of actions. The value of result of the first action is 3 unit to the person, and there is 1/3 chance to get this result. While the value of the second action is 2, but the chance to get it is 2/3. Since A1=3 multiple 1/3 which is smaller than A2=2 multiple 2/3, most people may tend to chose to emit the second action

I think this formula is displayed quite straight forward in the courtship. We seldom try to pursue the person who is out of our league even though they are “perfect” because the chance of success is often quite slim.

the deprivation satiation proposition principle of diminishing returns
The Deprivation-Satiation Proposition: Principle of Diminishing Returns
  • “ The more often in the recent past a person has received a particular reward, the less valuable any further unit of that reward becomes for him or her.” (the effect of satiation)
  • Any behavior that is rewarding reaches a point where it begins to lose it value because it is too readily available.
  • Deprivation aspect of this proposition: When an individual is forced to go a long period of time without the desired reward, she or he will begin to lose interest and move on, seeking other rewards from other sources.
  • But this proportion is subjected the value of the reward in question in relation to the time it was last presented.
the aggression approval proposition principle of distributive justice
The Aggression-Approval Proposition. Principle of Distributive Justice
  • When a behavior does not receive the expected reward, or is punished unexpectedly, the response is anger or aggression and the aggressor will find such aggression rewarding.
  • When an individual does not receive the same rewards as others, frustration occurs. They will be angry and learn to complain.
  • When a person’s action receives a greater reward than expected, or does not receive a punishment when expected, he or she will be pleased. Avoiding a doomed punishment or getting a unexpected blessing, definitely makes people happy.
concepts and contributions anitfuntionalist
Concepts and ContributionsAnitfuntionalist
  • In 1967, Homans wrote The Nature of Social Science which was primarily in response to Parsons and structural – functionalism.
  • Felt that explanation (of behavior) was possible only through the use of propositions and all theories must have them.
  • Believed Parson’s theories had none.
  • Summarized the explanation as the process of showing how empirical findings follow from, can be deduced from, general propositions under particular given conditions.
  • The general propositions are psychological and are propositions about the behavior of humans rather than about societies or other social groups.
concepts and contributions anitfunctionalist
Concepts and ContributionsAnitfunctionalist
  • Confronted structural functionalists by directly attacking Durkheim on three main issues:
  • 1. The Issues of Emergence – All emergent social phenomena could be explained by psychological propositions.
  • 2. Durkheim’s View of Psychology – Psychology of Durkheim’s day was very primitive and concentrated on instinctive forms of behavior.
  • 3. Durkheim’s Method of Explanation – Durkheim believed a social fact is explained when one can find the facts that caused it. Homans was concerned with the relationship between cause and effect and argued that explanation was inevitably psychological.
concepts and contributions anitfunctionalist1
Concepts and ContributionsAnitfunctionalist
  • Homans also attacked the four types of explanation used in analyzing institutions by structural functionalists.
  • 1. Structural – Argued that institutions which was correlated with others do not necessarily explain them.
  • 2. Functional: the belief that an institution exists because society could not survive without it. – Felt that there is inadequate evidence to prove such an assumption and that functional explanation in sociology is a failure.
  • 3.Historical: The institution is seen as the end product of a historical process. – Homans saw this historical explanation as basically a psychological one.
  • 4. Ties in with historical explanation: All human institutions are products of processes of historical change. – Argued that institutional change must be explained by sociologists and that definitions of change should be based upon psychological principles
concepts and contributions group system
Concepts and ContributionsGroup System
  • Viewed a group as a plurality of people in interaction.
  • When the members of a group maintain an active involvement with one another and share activities, interaction, sentiment and norms, they have formed a social system.
  • Homan’s was quite clear about elements that comprise the group system, which are: activity, interaction, sentiments, and norms.
concepts and contributions group system1
Concepts and ContributionsGroup System
  • Activity- refers to what members of the group do as members.
  • Interaction – Involved the relation of the activity of one member of the group to that of another.
  • Sentiment – The sum of the feelings of group members with respect to the group.
  • Norms – Code of behavior adopted consciously or unconsciously by the group
concepts and contributions group system2
Concepts and ContributionsGroup System
  • Homan’s group system is in the tradition of Pareto, who views a group as “external in contrast to internal system.”
  • The group is external in that it meets in response to the needs of outside environment
  • The group is an internal system because the elements of behavior are mutually depended.
  • Changes to either the external or internal elements causes changes in the group system.
  • Homan’s used the termfeedbackto describe the relationship between the internal and external group systems.
concepts and contributions group structure
Concepts and ContributionsGroup Structure
  • Explained that the collapse of entire civilizations can be explained by the failure of a number of small groups to properly meet the group system’s needs.
  • Proper maintenance of the internal group system is at least partially depended on the group structure.
  • The action of group members if often dictated by one’s status within the group structure
  • Members have a varying degree of commitment to maintain the social system.
concepts and contributions group structure1
Concepts and ContributionsGroup Structure
  • Social behavior is an exchange of rewards (and costs) between persons.
  • The more value a member holds to the group, the more esteem they hold that individual to.
  • The higher the esteem that one member holds, the lower esteem that is available for the rest of the members of the group.
concepts and contributions group structure2
Concepts and ContributionsGroup Structure
  • The higher the rank of a person within a group, the more nearly his activities conform to the norms of the group.
  • Each member has certain role obligations.
  • When role obligations are met, the group has a better chance of survival (maintenance).
  • Most members of a group will meet their group needs due to the acknowledgement of mutual obligations.
concepts and contributions group structure3
Concepts and ContributionsGroup Structure
  • When the members of a group are trying to change the behavior of others, they will direct their attention to the individual who has failed to meet group obligations.
  • On the other hand, when the group influence has failed to produce the proper interaction adjustment requested of the deviant member, the group will greatly reduce their interaction with this person.
  • Group members will offer social approval as a “generalized reinforcer” to those who provide activity they value.
concepts and contributions group structure4
Concepts and ContributionsGroup Structure
  • This increases the likelihood that approved action will continue.
  • Group members generally conform to the expectations of the group because they find such activities and interactions rewarding.
  • Conformity is met with approval and acceptable behavior is more likely to continue.
concepts and contributions power and authority
Concepts and ContributionsPower and Authority
  • Homans felt that a person who influences other members has authority.
  • An individual earns authority by acquiring esteem, which is done by rewarding others.
  • Power can be defined as the ability to provide valuable rewards.
concepts and contributions power and authority1
Concepts and ContributionsPower and Authority
  • Those with power and authority are in small numbers.
  • Provides the seed for future conflict.
  • When the leader directs others, they will inevitably cause members to incur costs.
  • As long as the leader also incurs costs this will help to avoid conflict.
concepts and contributions power and authority2
Concepts and ContributionsPower and Authority
  • When rewards that are distributed seem fair (distributive justice) the individual is satisfied.
  • Humans act as if they find it valuable to realize fair exchange.
  • They will also expose emotional behavior toward this end (the pursuit of distributive justice).
  • Avoiding the pain and pursuing the pleasure can be no more basic when regarding our human nature, since the exchange theory are established upon such principle, it will always be relevant as long as the human nature doesn’t change.
  • To demonstrate the relevancy of these propositions to today’s or future world is nearly pointless, as indeed, any behavior that one can think of can easily be answered by one or more of his propositions.
  • From the basic level of exchange described by George Homans and expanded upon by Peter Blau (especially at the group level), to a “network analysis” approach by such contemporary thinkers as Emerson and Cook.
  • The best illustration of the bright future of exchange theory is Gary Beckers winning of the prestigious Nobel Prize for economics in 1992. He believes people make rational choices about various behaviors based on economic theories such as cost-benefit and incentives.
  • Failure to provide an adequate analysis of consciousness, ignored the norms and values that symbolically shape exchange relations.
  • Not all the sociological behaviors are reducible to pure psychological principles
  • As Pareto had previously pointed out, and Homans failed to address, behavior has both “logical” as well as “nonlogical” aspects, but both provide the framework in which behavior is motivated.
  • To micro in his orientation and for failure to address the macro structural issues of society.
  • Realism vs. Idealism

-Realism because of his strong ontological views, studying conceptions of reality.

  • Realism vs. Nominalism

-Nominalism because he believes in experiments. Have to be able to experience things with your senses in order to do an experiment.

  • Idealism vs. Materialism

-Materialism because of his deductive-nomological approach that states that a general law can cover all similar situations and allows for outcomes to be deduced.