The video above is my personal entry for the 2011 “Dance your Ph.D.” contest (see gonzolabs.org/dance/). Congratulations to John Bohannon for creating this amazing contest!

The main focus of my Ph.D. was to offer a motivational perspective to Social Exchange Theory (a theory that treats social interaction as give-and-take of resources such as money, love, information) that is not based on the ‘instrumental rationality’ postulate. In other words, I wanted to show that people do not necessarily act as self-interested utility-maximizing actors that essentially strive to reap the most benefits possible.

Psychology university students participated in six studies examining when they would treat a social interaction (or negotiation) as exchange, how they would evaluate the situation and what types of motives they would exhibit. The findings support that a wealth of situations (with proportional or disproportional input-outcome structures) can be considered as exchanges. However, evaluation is not based only on utility and interest alone but also on any rule that can be supported in the context of exchange. Moreover, the rules can be classified in four types: reward-coercive rules, social rules, terms of relationships and ethical rules. Participants identified these rules as the potential motives for their behavior, as predicted on the basis of Self-Determination Theory (psych.rochester.edu/SDT/). One of the experiments also showed that different situations evoked the use of different rules.

Subtitles during the video pretty much explain how I tried to dance my Ph.D. Hats serve as a metaphor for resources and my purpose was to show that people do not interact based only on their desire to get the most hats possible. Instead they can be motivated by any rule they may agree on, by any social or ethical rule. Or in the end, they can always be motivated by the hat too :)

My research is generally concerned with providing an alternative approach to social exchange and negotiation, where the instrumental rationality postulate seems to have dominated. Should you be interested, please visit: arvanitis.socialpsychology.org/

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