Social exchange and the psychological contract: is reciprocity the exception or the rule?




Neely, Andrea R.

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A psychological contract is individuals' systems of beliefs regarding the obligations that exist between themselves and their organization. Existing theory and research on psychological contracts is problematic because of (a) mixed results concerning the influence of promises, (b) the untested and potentially inaccurate assumption that reciprocity alone guides these exchanges, and (c) the lack of evidence concerning the role of identity. This dissertation focuses on addressing the role of promises, exchange rules, and identity in our understanding of psychological contracts. Results show that promises are not influential in employee responses to psychological contracts and that individuals may rely upon other exchange rules (e.g., competition, altruism) in addition to reciprocity to determine how they respond. And, identity had surprising effects on behavioral intentions. Findings from this research question some of the fundamental assumptions of psychological contracts.


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altruism, competition, psychological contract, rationality, reciprocity, social exchange