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Four Models of Relating


Explanations > Relationships > Four Models of Relating

Communal sharing | Authority ranking | Equality matching | Market pricing | So what?


Fiske (1993) identifies four common patterns of relating. Each model is distinct in the rules and values of how the people interact.

Communal sharing

Some relationship are defined by how people live together in a trusting relationship whereby they share many things, considering them as 'ours' rather than 'mine'. Fairness is important in such groups and appealing to values may be the best way to persuade. Conflict may be dealt with through mediation and others methods that seek agreement from all.


Romantic couples, Kin groups

Authority ranking

The social groups and organizations in which we live are often arranged with a hierarchy of power. It starts with parent and child and then progresses to schools, workplaces and other groupings. Whilst communal sharing groups are based on trust and fair play, authority relationships are based on command and control where the inferior person has little option but to obey the superior person.


Teacher and pupil, Officer and soldier

Equality matching

In equality relationships there is no authority between people nor is there the deeper responsibility towards one another as in the communal sharing model. Equality matched relationships generally collaborate around shared goals and help one another on the basis appeals and a of a loose exchange of favors.


Work peers, Sports team mates

Market pricing

In the market pricing model, the relationship is based around a transaction, where the parties exchange substantive items, often with money being a part of the transaction. Such relationships may be shorter than others and more formal, even with an explicit or implied contract to formalize the exchange.


Buyer and seller, landlord and tenant

So what?

This implies three modes of persuasion in relationships: authority, exchange and appeal.

Identify the relationship model that the other person is using and beware of using another model unless you deliberately want to cause confusion. Otherwise use the rules and values of the model that the other person is using.

See also

Authority principle, Exchange principle, Appeal principle


Fiske A.P. (1992). The four elementary forms of sociality: Framework for a unified theory of social relations. Psychological Review, 99, 689–723.

Fiske, A.P. (1993). Structures of Social Life: The Four Elementary Forms of Human Relations, Free Press.

Fiske, A.P. and Haslam, N.  (1996). Social Cognition Is Thinking About Relationships. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 5, 143–148.


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