Script: The Basics of Psychology for Christian Ministry
Homework Assignments

3.2.3 The need for balance and closure

In the 1940s, social psychologist Fritz Heider formulated what came to be known as balance theory. He suggested that people seek to feel similarly about a certain object.

Imagine Trevor’s best friend Mark is getting engaged. His fiancée Gillian is politically affiliated with a party Trevor has very strong feelings against. Although Mark is not interested in politics and Trevor and Mark rarely talk about political issues, Trevor eventually feels less interested in his friendship with Mark. 

However, there is another possible outcome. Let’s say Mark makes an effort to keep the friendship with Trevor vibrant. He invites him home to meet Gillian for dinner and a game night, and Gillian avoids talking to him about politics. Eventually Trevor comes to like Gillian and feels less hostile towards her political views. Trevor tells his colleague Ben that he got to meet someone who votes for the X party, but who, believe it or not, is actually a very nice person.

This is a good illustration of an idea by sociologist Mark Granovetter in the 1970s. He showed in his research how ideas can spread through social networks as people gradually adjust their attitudes in an effort to achieve cognitive balance or, in his terms, triadic closure.



Some religious groups see this process of social contagion as a threat and discourage 

their members from associating with people from outside their circles. What is your view about this and what has been your experience?