There’s no such thing as a free lunch: A dialectical analysis of social cheating during financial transactions among friends

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Michaela R. Winchatz, Donald R. Martin, and Eric Elia (2021) AMITY: The Journal of Friendship Studies (2021) 7:1, 49-63/ doi: 10.5518/AMITY/36


This qualitative investigation explores the act of social cheating during financial transactions in friendship groups. The authors identify social cheating as a pattern of communication behavior that contributes to perceptions of inequity during monetary decision-making among friends and family members. Grounded in a Baxterian (1988) dialectical theoretical framework, results suggest that social cheating can challenge not only the stability of an integrated social group but also influence the content and strategic nature of the communication occurring during the social cheating act itself. The contradiction inherent within the social cheating act builds upon Baxterian theory acknowledging one’s propensity to act in a fair and equitable manner vs. one’s tendency to take unfair financial advantage of friends – a contradiction providing insight into how social friendship groups use communication to manage the negative consequences of the social cheating act.