Heider's Balance Theory - Explained
What is Balance Theory?
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What is Balance Theory?
The Balance Theory, also known as Cognitive Balance, proposed by Heider (1946) is a psychological concept that describes relationships amongst cognitions..
In simple terms, according to Heider:
- My friend’s friend is my friend.
- My friend’s enemy is my enemy.
- My enemy’s friend is my enemy.
- My enemy’s enemy is my friend.
He depicted liking relationships among a triad:
- the Perceiver (P),
- the attitude Object (X) and
- The Other Person (O).
Any resulting combination, whether a perceiver likes a concept or the other person or vice versa, is represented with minus and plus signs.
When plus overcomes minus there is balance; in case of an imbalanced relationship the Balance Theory predicts that an attitude change would take place to restore the balance.
What are the 8 Configurations of Balance Theory?
In any triad there can be 8 relational configurations, relationships from 1 to 4 are balanced and those from 5 to 8 are unbalanced:
- P+O; P+X; O+X
- P+O; P-X; O-X
- P-O; P+X; O-X
- P-O; P-X; P+X
Unbalanced (likely to be turned into the above balanced relationships in order to restore balance):
- P+O; P+X; O-X
- P+O; P-X; O+X
- P-O; P+X; O+X
- P-O; P-X; O-X
Balance Theory Example
A well-known example of Balance Theory is the triadic relationship between Michael Jordan (O), Nike Shoes (X) and the Potential Customer (P). When a Potential Customer likes Michael Jordan (P+O), and Jordan states Nike Shoes are great (O+X), if he doesn’t like Nike Shoes (P-X) he feels uncomfortable and the relationship is imbalanced. Therefore to restore the balance he will change his attitude into (P+X) thus returning to configuration number 1.
This theory is closely related to Congruity Theory.