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What Is Sociometry?

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  • Written By: Jacob Queen
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 19 August 2016
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Sociometry is a scientific approach to manipulating group dynamics created in the 1950s by a psychotherapist named Jacob Moreno. The basic method behind sociometry is for the therapist to study the natural relationships that exist in a group using mathematical and scientific techniques, come to an understanding about why inner-group relationships exist, and then make adjustments allowing for a greater level of group harmony. In conception, sociometry is not generally meant simply for analysis, but rather, it was designed as something that people would potentially apply in day-to-day situations to improve different kinds of group interactions.

When people come together in a group, they often make very quick decisions about their own role in the group and the roles of all the people around them. These decisions are often very intuitive, and they generally emerge spontaneously throughout the group without anybody necessarily having to acknowledge them. The reasons for these kinds of decisions can be hard to decipher, but there is often a certain universality to them which causes things to quickly fall into place. Over time, people's actions and behaviors within the group will help further define the initial pecking order, along with alliances and other dynamics.

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Sociometry seeks to analyze these underlying schemes to figure out exactly what the people are thinking and why. The idea is to actually turn all this information into something that can be analyzed through mathematics. After looking at the numbers, the sociometrist tries to analyze the data and put it into practice in some way that will result in improvements for the group.

There are many different ways for sociometry to be applied that might allow a group to function more effectively. For example, after doing a sociometric analysis, a business owner might decide to change his work teams so that they mesh better. He might also decide to remove certain employees who are naturally disruptive to the social order in the workplace. In the end, this sort of change might lead to better attendance, better morale, and better employee retention.

Often during the initial group analysis, there will be a public airing of the motivations of the different group members. This can sometimes be embarrassing or difficult for the members, but it also has the potential to help the group come together better. Once the individuals in the group understand the reasons for their own roles, and the way everyone looks at each other, they sometimes naturally change their behaviors in ways that cause the group to function more effectively.

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anon232833
Post 5

It is very helpful to build relationships and sometimes it is very helpful to find out our invisible forces that can be more explored.

Esther11
Post 4

I'm not so sure I agree with the way sociometry categorizes children for data collection to show how children in a classroom or other group are viewed by their peers.

In some studies, the results of sociometry data give children labels, such as the most popular, least popular, not tolerated at all, and labels in between.

I don't like to see anyone judged and labeled in such a way. There are so many different ways to perceive people.

Even though one of the purposes of sociometry is to improve the group dynamics, there are other ways.

live2shop
Post 3

The idea of using sociometry in group analysis is still being studied. I was a teacher and never used it, but it is used by teachers in some schools. One way it is used is to find out how learning impaired children are doing in regular classrooms.

This is just a short explanation - teachers ask the kids some questions like - What three kids do you like the best in the class? - What three kids would you like to go on a picnic with? What three kids do you not like very well?

Then all information is put on a mathematical matrix. This data helps to figure out the group dynamics - the pecking order and how the learning challenged kids fit in and interact in the class.

indemnifyme
Post 2

@sunnySkys - I disagree. While the method of sociometry clearly hasn't caught on, I think you can use math to analyze interpersonal relationships.

You mention both biology and psychology in your comment. Did you know statistics and equations are used to analyze data gleaned in studies done in both psychology and biology? I don't see why the same type of methodology couldn't be applied to interpersonal relations.

sunnySkys
Post 1

This is an interesting idea, but I don't think it would actually work. There are so many factors that influence group dynamics, I don't think you could analyze it mathematically!

You would have to take into account both psychology and biology. For example, we all have hormones that influence our moods and cause us to act a certain way. But then we are also influenced by our personal experiences and feelings.

I think group dynamics can definitely be manipulated, but not with math.

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