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To begin the answer to this question, let us look at Homans’ five propositions.
First, Homans says that people are more likely to engage in a given activity if that activity has been rewarded in the past. So, for example, if you have been early to work every day and have been praised by your boss for being early, you are more likely to continue to be early in the future.
Second, the more often you do things that reward another person for a given behavior, the more often they will engage in that behavior. Using our previous example, this means that you will be more likely to come to work early if your boss praises you often (or rewards you in other ways).
Third, if you do things that reward another person for a given behavior, that person will engage in that behavior more often if the reward that you give them is more valuable to them. Let us imagine that your boss can either praise you or give you a monetary reward. If the monetary reward is more valuable to you, you will come to work early more often if your boss gives you money than you would if they simply praise you.
Fourth, the more often someone does things that reward you, the less valuable those rewards become for you in the future. In other words, if your boss constantly praises you for being on time for work, the less valuable that praise will become. You will sort of get used to it and not value it so much anymore.
Finally, we are more likely to become angry if we seem to be treated unfairly. If we do not get rewarded when we think we should be, for example, we are likely to become angry.
I do not believe that all relationships are formed in this way. I think that more intimate relationships are formed differently. It is plausible to me that our work relationships and other such formal relationships are formed in this way, but I believe that we do not act in this way in, for example, our dealings with our spouses and our children.
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