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Conservation of Resources (COR) Theory

COR is a stress theory that describes the motivation that drives humans to both maintain their current resources and to pursue new resources. This theory was proposed by Dr. Stevan E. Hobfoll in 1989 as a way to expand on the literature of stress as a construct.

Hobfoll posited that psychological stress occurred in three instances; when there was a threat of a loss of resources, an actual net loss of resources, and a lack of gained resources following the spending of resources. From this perspective, resources are defined as things that one values, specifically objects, states, and conditions. COR states that loss of these types of resources will drive individuals into certain levels of stress.

Basic Principles of COR

COR covers two basic principles involving the protection of resources from being lost. The first principle is called the Primacy of Resource Loss. This principle states that it is more harmful for individuals to lose resources compared to when there is a gain of resources. What this means, is that a loss of pay will be more harmful than the same gain in pay would have been helpful.

The second principle is known as Resource Investment. This principle of COR states that people will tend to invest resources in order to protect against resource loss, to recover from losses, and to gain resources. Within the context of coping, people will invest resources to prevent future resource losses.

From these two principles, COR has suggested a number of corollaries that can be applied to resource changes. They are as follows:

Individuals with higher resources will be set up for gains in resources. Similarly, individuals with fewer resources are more likely to experience resource losses. Initial resource loss will lead to resource loss in the future. Initial resource gains will lead to resource gains in the future. A lack of resources will invariable lead to defensive attempts to conserve the remaining resources. #Wikipedia

Further reading

Conservation of Resources in the Organizational Context: The Reality of Resources and Their Consequences Stevan E. Hobfoll, 1 Jonathon Halbesleben, 2 Jean-Pierre Neveu, 3 and Mina Westman 4 2018 here  OxfordHandBooks here

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