Balance Theory (A Comprehensive Guide)

Balance theory defines an individual point of view about others such as their family, social circle, and all those they are supposed to have a relationship with; also the arrangement of their opinion about different objects proposed by Fritz Heider.

The main concept conveyed by balance theory is that balance exists between the people’s opinions and various objects.

Although some structure opinions are not balanced. While the balanced things always take a lead on the imbalanced ones.

Balance theory argues that the negative emotions and behavior such as feelings of stress and discomfort are directly associated with the fluctuation of balance.

This actually encourages the individual to struggle in attaining balance rather than focusing on negative feelings.

Balance theory can be understood by the following examples such as when your best friend also likes your favorite bracelet and clothes.

But it becomes unbalanced when your best friend shows displeasure toward your likeness of objects.

In the above examples, balance theory proposes the two case scenarios in which the first thing causes the feeling of pleasure and satisfaction and the second situation causes the feeling of displeasure and feeling of anxiousness.

Theoretical Assumptions

Balance theory intended to explain the relationship among three individuals through its innovative design.

In order to describe the pattern of relationship among three individual or three objects, the word triadic is used in normal conversation.

Overall, balance theory defines the relationship among three numbers that can be seen as A-O-X. in the above example every figure of the word stands for an individual relationship with others such as the word “A” describes the relationship that exists in the middle of the first person and the second person.

The word “O” describes the relationship between a second person and the third person.

The word “X” defines the relationship between the first person and the third one.

From a general point of view, the relationship that exists between two individuals may be positive such as both of them like each other and at the same time the relationship between them can be negative such as both of them have some displeasure feeling toward each other.  

Balance theory explain that the triad (relationship among three individual) would be balanced if it is composed of even quantity of negative relationship among the triad (Joe, Robin, and Chris) such as the relationship would be balanced in these situations

·         Joe have a feeling of likeness for the robin, robin also have some feelings of likeness for Chris, and joe, in the same way, have some feeling of likeness for Chris

·         Joe have the feeling of likeness for the robin, robin actually have the feeling of hates for Chris, and joe also share the same feelings of hate for Chris

·         Joe has the feeling of displeasure for the robin, the robin has a sense of likeness for Chris, and joe also has a feeling of hatred for Chris.

·         Joe have the feeling of hate for the robin, the robin has the feeling of displeasure for Chris, and joe has the feeling of likeness for Chris

All of the above examples show the balanced relationship among the individuals through balance theory but at the same time, the relationship can be considered as imbalanced if it consists of an odd number of negative relationships such as 1 among the triad (Joe, Robin, and Chris) consider the following examples to understand the imbalance situations.

·         Joe has the feeling of displeasure for the robin, robin likes Chris, and joe likes Chris.

·         Joe likes robin, the robin has the feeling of displeasure for Chris, and joe likes Chris.

·         Joe likes robin, robin likes Chris, and joe has the feeling of displeasure for Chris

·         Joe has the feeling of displeasure for the robin, robin dislikes Chris, and joe has the feeling of displeasure for Chris.  

 All of the above examples show the negative imbalance relationship among the triad.

 The basic purpose of developing the balance theory was to define the basic structure that exists among the interpersonal relationship of the individuals and also have the ability to explain the approaches and points of view of people related to some objects.

Such as a triad relationship can exist between 2 people and their attitude about some specific object.

Let’s consider the following example of Amina, Joe, and favorite music.

The relationship among the triad would be considered balanced if Amina has a pleasant feeling for Joe, Joe shares the same feeling of likeness for their favorite music,  and Amina also has the feeling of pleasure for similar music.

At the same time the relationship among the triad would be considered as an imbalance if Amina has a feeling of pleasure for Joe, Joe likes his favorite music, and Amina has the feeling of displeasure or hatred for Joe’s favorite music.

Although, in the above examples a relationship is mentioned among the individual and objects that are actually based on personal thoughts and emotions.

But balanced theory argues that if two individuals by some means are connected to each other they have the ability to form positive or balanced relationships.

On the other hand, if two individuals due to one way or another have the feeling that based on the reality that they do not fit in a specific place or relationship with others they form an imbalanced relationship.

These kinds of associations or relationships often refer to the unit associations.

The positive association can be considered by the feelings of intimacy, resemblance, and closeness between the members that share a relationship such as people with a similar background, players of a team i.e., basketball or cricket team, and people with similar personality characteristics. 

On the other hand, a negative unit of association can be understood from the feelings of aloofness, distinction, and variations among the individuals such as the relationship among the members of the team that belong to different countries, people who have different personality traits, and belongs to different backgrounds.


Evidence about the balance theory can be seen by three different ways which are described below

The first evidence

 The division made between the balance and imbalance triad of relationship also has the crucial effects on a number of various fields.

The finding of the research has proved that the feeling of irritation or uneasiness that is linked with an imbalanced unit of relation has a direct effect on the development of new beliefs and behaviors.

However, it is confirmed through the findings that new patterns of beliefs and attitudes often have the ability to complete a triad of relationships because the previous attitudes are based on the imbalance relationship which is changed.

Let’s consider the example of a triad relationship among Amina, Sania, and Ali

Amina came to know that her best friend Sania has some feeling of likeness or love toward a stranger named Ali.

Amina will definitely start to have a new positive frame of mind for that individual which is liked by her best friend.

On the other hand, in the same condition if Amina comes to know that Sania has a fight with a stranger or has a feeling of hatred toward a stranger then Amina will also start to have a new feeling of hatred toward this stranger named Ali.  

The second evidence

Various research no doubt has established an overall improvement especially human ability to memorize things more that have balanced information rather than imbalanced.

 Let’s consider the example of the human ability to recall something.

Humans have an amazing ability to remember the patterns that share some similarities or are associated with each other.

In short, that is balanced. You can understand in a better way by this example “Joe likes Robin, Robin dislikes Chris, and Joe dislikes Chris.”

The example shows a balanced structure and easy to recall.

At the same time, if we consider another example in which Joe likes Robin, Robin dislikes Chris, and Joe likes Chris.

The above example indicates an imbalance association and makes it difficult for humans to recall the pattern of association they share.

The distinction you can see in the human ability to remember and recall things that are stored in their memory become more prominent when the triad relationship involves a perceiver.

Let’s consider the following example.

I have a feeling of likeness for Robin, Robin has the feeling of hatred or Dislikes for Chris, and I also have the feeling of displeasure for Chris

The Third evidence

 The balanced theory also has some important generalizations for people’s ability to perceive as a unique person and also how they feel about themselves.

In this field of research, researchers have many findings which indicate that a person’s relation with his self and his frame of mind or point of view about a group and its members share the patterns that have the similar characteristics with the group assessment and the individual assessment and together these characteristics formed a balanced relationship.

Let’s consider another example to understand this perspective of balance theory.

Black people usually have a great mental relationship with themselves and also with the people who share a similar background such as that belonging to the category of Black.

Which explains their reason behind supporting the black in every situation that is opposed by some whites.

And the same individual will also show some positive frame of mind for their self too such as he seems to be confident while telling people their originality in a way i.e. “yes, I know I am black and black is the best color of the world that’s why I am unique and perfect”

On the other hand, if a Black shows some negative relation although he has a great mental relation with himself and the people belong with a similar background.

In this condition, he will give more negative evaluations toward the Blacks and also about his self-such as yes, I know have a black skin tone which is a total misfortune.

God may want to take some revenge from me, I just hate the black color because it shows the evilness in humans and makes me seem that I am a bad person.

Balance theory explains that these kinds of comments about the category of a person from which he belongs and about the self may show some inherent connection with the present situations.

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FAQ about Balance Theory 

Who developed balance theory?

Balance theory was proposed by Fritz Heider (social psychologist).

The theory was based on the balance and imbalance relations among the triad.

What is balancing in psychology?

The balance between the things is a statistical way of defining the flexibility of adjusting in a situation such as the human ability to adjust according to the demand of the environment creates a balance and positive feeling.

What is the difference between balance theory and cognitive dissonance theory?

Cognitive dissonance refers to the internal biases rather than to reality while making a decision whereas balance theory defines that people use their cognitive ability to maintain a balance in their interpersonal relationship and promote positive relations.


 Balance Theory Definition

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