Sociometry is a quantitative method for measuring social relationships. It was developed by psychotherapist Jacob L. Moreno in his studies of the relationship between social structures and psychological well-being.
The term sociometry relates to its Latin etymology, socius meaning companion, and metrum meaning measure. Jacob Moreno defined sociometry as "the inquiry into the evolution and organization of groups and the position of individuals within them." He goes on to write "As the ...science of group organization, it attacks the problem not from the outer structure of the group, the group surface, but from the inner structure. "Sociometric explorations reveal the hidden structures that give a group its form: the alliances, the subgroups, the hidden beliefs, the forbidden agendas, the ideological agreements, the ‘stars’ of the show".
He developed sociometry within the new sciences, although its ultimate purpose is transcendence and not science. 'By making choices based on criteria, overt and energetic, Moreno hoped that individuals would be more spontaneous, and organisations and groups structures would become fresh, clear and lively'.
One of Moreno's innovations in sociometry was the development of the sociogram, a systematic method for graphically representing individuals as points/nodes and the relationships between them as lines/arcs. Moreno, who wrote extensively of his thinking, applications and findings, also founded a journal entitled Sociometry.
Within sociology, sociometry has two main branches: research sociometry, and applied sociometry. Research sociometry is action research with groups exploring the socio-emotional networks of relationships using specified criteria e.g. Who in this group do you want to sit beside you at work? Who in the group do you go to for advice on a work problem? Who in the group do you see providing satisfying leadership in the pending project? Sometimes called network explorations, research sociometry is concerned with relational patterns in small (individual and small group) and larger populations, such as organizations and neighborhoods. Applied sociometrists utilize a range of methods to assist people and groups review, expand and develop their existing psycho-social networks of relationships. Both fields of sociometry exist to produce through their application, greater spontaneity and creativity of both individuals and groups.
Moreno's Criteria for Sociometric Tests
In 'Sociometry, Experimental Method and the Science of Society: An Approach to a New Political Orientation', Moreno describes the depth to which a group needs to go for the method to be "sociometric". The term for him had a qualitative meaning and did not apply unless some group process criteria were met. One of these is that there is acknowledgment of the difference between process dynamics and the manifest content. To quote Moreno: "there is a deep discrepancy between the official and the secret behavior of members". Moreno advocates that before any "social program" can be proposed, the sociometrist has to "take into account the actual constitution of the group."
Other criteria are: the Rule of adequate motivation: "Every participant should feel about the experiment that it is in his (or her) own cause . . . that it is an opportunity for him (or her) to become an active agent in matters concerning his (or her) life situation." and the Rule of "gradual" inclusion of all extraneous criteria. Moreno speaks here of "the slow dialectic process of the sociometric experiment".
Anthropological applications of sociometry
Given that sociometry is concerned with group allegiances and cleavages, it is not surprising that sociometric methods have been used to study ethnic relationships and way individuals identify with ethnic groups. For instance, using sociometric research, Joan Criswell investigated white-black relationships in US classrooms, Gabriel Weimann researched ethnic relationships in Israel, and James Page has investigated intra-ethnic and inter-ethnic identification within the Pacific.
Other approaches and software
Other approaches were developed in last decades, such as Social Network Analysis, or Sociomapping. Freeware as well as commercial software was developed for analysis of groups and their structure, such as Pajek, Keyhubs or InFlow. All these approaches share much of their basic principles with Sociometry. Facebook is a social network service and website which is largely based on the sociometry of its users.
- Jacob L. Moreno
- Social interaction
- Social status
- Sociometric Solutions
- Sociometrics Corporation
- Moreno, J. L. 1951. Sociometry, Experimental Method and the Science of Society. An Approach to a New Political Orientation. Beacon House, Beacon, New York.
- Jennings, H.H. 1987. Sociometry in Group Relations. 2nd ed. Westport: Greenwood.
- Criswell, J. 1937. Racial Cleavages in Negro-White Groups. Sociometry. 1(1): 87-89; and 1939 A Sociometric Study of Racial Cleavages in the Classroom Psychology Archives Series, #235. New York: Columbia University Press.
- Weimann, G. 1983. The Not-So-Small World: Ethnicity and Acquaintance Networks in Israel. Social Networks. 5(3): 289-302.
- Page, J. 1988/9. Education and Acculturation on Malaita: An Ethnography of Intra-ethnic and Inter-ethnic Affinities. Journal of Intercultural Studies. 15/16:74-81. Online: http://eprints.qut.edu.au/3566/
For more information concerning recent developments in the field of sociometry consult the International Sociometry Training Network (Ann E. Hale) at Sociometry.net