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Balance theories: two reconstructions and the problem of intended applications

Gleichgewichtstheorien: zwei Rekonstruktionen und das Problem beabsichtigter Anwendungen
[journal article]

Manhart, Klaus

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Abstract Balance theories were an important research program in social psychology and sociology. Initiated by the Austrian psychologist Fritz Heider a number of theories with a different degree of complexity and a varying domain of applications was developed. Beyond their theoretical and empirical insights balance theories played a decisive role in the methodological discussions between the fifties and seventies. In this paper a reconstruction of two balance-theory-elements is given: the original theory by Heider, that deals with cognitive entities, and an advanced theory proposed by (Holland, Leinhardt 1971), that deals with interpersonal relations. On the basis of these reconstructions, the problems surrounding the empirical applications of balance theories are analyzed. Starting with the core application some balance theorists suggested to enlarge the domain of intended applications. A short excerpt of some central arguments demonstrates that the intended systems of the balance theory were controversial. In this case the 'method of autodetermination' should be applied: the theory's formalism itself is left with the responsibility of deciding what its applications are to be. This example demonstrates again, that the domain of applications is independent of the theory's core.
Keywords equilibrium theory; cognitive factors; interpersonal communication; social psychology; equilibrium model; application; theory comparison; reconstruction; problem
Classification General Concepts, Major Hypotheses and Major Theories in the Social Sciences
Method descriptive study; theory application
Free Keywords Balance Theorien
Document language English
Publication Year 2000
Page/Pages p. 171-187
Journal Poznan studies in the philosophy of the sciences and the humanities (2000) 75
Status Published Version; reviewed
Licence Creative Commons - Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works