Balance Theory

Knowledge Center

Summary, forum, best practices, expert tips and information sources.

15 items • 57.895 visits



Balance TheoryDefinition Balance Theory? Meaning.

Balance Theory is is a psychological concept that describes relationships amongst cognitions..

The Balance Theory has been pioneered by Fritz Heider in 1946.

In simple terms, according to Heider:

  • My friendís friend is my friend.
  • My friendís enemy is my enemy.
  • My enemyís friend is my enemy.
  • My enemyís 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 overcome 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.

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:


  1. P+O; P+X; O+X
  2. P+O; P-X; O-X
  3. P-O; P+X; O-X
  4. P-O; P-X; P+X

Unbalanced (likely to be turned into the above balanced relationships in order to restore balance):

  1. P+O; P+X; O-X
  2. P+O; P-X; O+X
  3. P-O; P+X; O+X
  4. 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 doesnít 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.

Benefits and Shortcomings of Balance Theory

The main advantage of Balance theory is that when we are aware of any inconsistency we may consider that an attitude change is likely to happen. Although people donít relate any cognitions to each other to find inconsistencies.

The main limitations of Balance Theory are:

  1. In configurations 3,4,7,8 when P doesnít like O the theory doesnít work well;
  2. The theory makes no prediction on how imbalance will be restored;
  3. The quality of the message content (O +/- X) is ignored;
  4. Relationships within the triad are not quantifiable, there can be cases where a plus is stronger than a minus or than an other plus.

Using Balance Theory

The use of Balance Theory has been particularly effective in celebrity advertising campaigns based on famous testimonials. When a celebrity supports a product or a service all people who like her/him start feeling attracted by the same product / service to achieve a psychological balance. In this perspective, when designing a celebrity-based advertising campaign, it is effective to use a personality that can be considered an idol by a companyís target market. Michael Jordan would not have been so effective in endorsing a PC or a make-up product.

The Balance Theory is also known as Cognitive Balance and conceptually it is very similar to the concept of Congruity Theory, which tried to partially overcome the limitation of point 2.

Special Interest Group

Balance Theory Special Interest Group.

Special Interest Group (184 members)


Forum about the Balance Theory. Below you can ask a question about this topic, share your experiences, report a new development, or explain something.

Start a new topic about Balance Theory


Balance and Game Theory
Is there any relationship between balance theory and game theory?...
🔥 NEW Effects of Celebrity Endorsement in Advertising
Hi, I am a BSc marketing student doing my project work on the topic 'Effects of Celebrity Endorsement on Telecommunication Products and Services'. Which model and theory can I use? Are you aware of an...

Best Practices

The best, top-rated topics about the Balance Theory. Here you will find the most valuable ideas and practical suggestions.

Expert Tips

Advanced insights about the Balance Theory. Here you will find professional advices by experts.

Information Sources

Various sources of information regarding the Balance Theory. Here you will find powerpoints, videos, news, etc. to use in your own lectures and workshops.

Balance Theory in Relationships and Social Networks

Balance Theory, Social Networks, Social Relationships
Balance Theory Explanation This presentation explains the Balance Theory, brief but clear. The presentation includes th...

Research Links

Jump to further research sources regarding the Balance Theory.








Compare with: Social Judgment Theory  |  Cognitive Dissonance  |  Congruity Theory  |  Impression Management  |  Attribution Theory  |  Employee Attitude Survey  |  Theory of Planned Behavior  |  Changing Organization Cultures  |  Appreciative Inquiry  |  Hawthorne Effect  |  Coaching  |  Mentoring

Special Interest Group

Do you know a lot about the Balance Theory? Become our SIG Leader and gain worldwide recognition as an expert.


Return to Management Hub: Change & Organization  |  Communication & Skills  |  Ethics & Responsibility  |  Human Resources  |  Knowledge & Intangibles  |  Leadership  |  Marketing & Sales

More on Management  |  Return to Management Dictionary


This ends our Balance Theory summary and forum.

About 12manage | Advertising | Link to us / Cite us | Privacy | Suggestions | Terms of Service
© 2023 12manage - The Executive Fast Track. V16.1 - Last updated: 5-6-2023. All names ô of their owners.