Social Interdependence Theory

Social interdependence theory is a social theory which holds that social systems are primarily defined by the type of interdependencies between their members. The essence of a social system is seen to be the interdependence among members, which results in the group being a dynamic whole so that a change in the state of any member or subgroup changes the state of others. Group members are made interdependent through common goals. In social interdependence theory, the nature of the interdependence between two individuals is contingent upon the manner in which each can influence what happens to the other during the course of the social interaction; what this is called ‘outcome interdependence’.1 The basic premise of social interdependence theory is that the way in which goals are structured determines how individuals interact, i.e. the types of relations between them. The theory posits two different types of social interdependence, positive and negative. Positive interdependence exists when there is a positive correlation among individuals’ goal attainments; individuals perceive that they can attain their goals if and only if the other individuals with whom they are cooperatively linked attain their goals. Negative interdependence exists when there is a negative correlation among individuals’ goal achievements; individuals perceive that they can obtain their goals if and only if the other individual with whom they are competitively linked fail to obtain their goals.2


About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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