Sociometry is a field within social science that delves into the study of social relationships and interpersonal interactions within groups. The founder of sociometry was Jacob L. Moreno (1889–1974).
Sociometry more specifically deals with the nature, quality, and quantity of human connection. We are constantly making choices about what we feel, think and do. Sociometry explores and concretizes this choice-making process.[i]
Another way to think about sociometry is that it is the attraction, rejection and “neural patterns” between members of a group. 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
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.
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.
According to Charles Kurzman, sociometry, by definition, measures the “socius,” meaning the interpersonal connection between two people (Moreno 1951). Moreno conceived three levels of sociometry (Moreno  1993), applying the term sociometry to each (tending to cause confusion).
These levels include the theoretical system (alternately termed sociatry), including role, social atom, spontaneity/encounter, psychodrama/enactment, and sociometry theories; subtheory of that system; and assessment method and intervention (Hale 1981; Remer 2006).
A complete understanding of sociometry provides tremendously powerful structures and tools for use not only in small group interactions, such as trial and with a jury, but also wherever and whenever interpersonal dynamics come into play.
Sociometry recognizes and uses the fact that all human connections are perpetually manifest in the social choices we make—for example, with whom we eat lunch; whom we marry; whom we sit next to in classes, receptions, and other meetings; whom we like and do not like (based on tele, warm-up, role reciprocity).
Using both positive (choose/acceptance/attraction) and negative (not choose/ rejection/repulsion) choices, the connections between people and the patterns of connections throughout groups are made manifest, explored, and influenced (Remer 1995a, 1995b; Remer and Finger 1995; Remer, Lima, Richey, et al. 1995).
Sociometry as a science may utilize sociograms, graphical representations of social networks, to visualize the intricate connections between individuals based on criteria such as affection, trust, communication, or collaboration.
Zerka Moreno’s Contribution to the Science of Sociometry
Zerka Moreno, the wife and collaborator of Jacob L. Moreno, played a significant role in furthering the development and application of sociometry in psychodrama. She emphasized the central importance of sociometry as a foundational tool in the psychodramatic method. Zerka Moreno believed that sociometry was not only a means to study social relationships but also an essential mechanism for guiding and shaping the psychodrama process.
In her work, Zerka Moreno highlighted the following key points about sociometry and its place in psychodrama:
Sociometry as a Diagnostic Tool: Zerka Moreno viewed sociometry as a diagnostic tool for understanding the social dynamics and relationships within a group or community. Through sociometric techniques, such as sociograms, she believed that one could gain insights into the patterns of attraction, communication, and conflict within a group, providing valuable information for psychodramatic interventions.
Exploring Spontaneity and Creativity: Sociometry was seen as a means to enhance spontaneity and creativity in psychodrama. By understanding the social atom of a protagonist or group members, the director could better tailor the psychodramatic enactment, creating opportunities for growth, insight, and emotional release.
Group Selection and Role Development: Sociometry played a crucial role in selecting the right group members and developing appropriate roles for psychodrama enactments. By understanding the relationships and affinities among group members, the psychodrama director could ensure a supportive and safe environment for the protagonist’s exploration and healing.
Fostering Empathy and Connection: Zerka Moreno believed that sociometry could foster empathy and a sense of connection within the psychodrama group. By recognizing and exploring the social relationships among participants, individuals could develop a deeper understanding of each other’s perspectives, promoting cohesion and group bonding.
Enhancing Role Theory: Sociometry complemented role theory in psychodrama, as it provided concrete data on how roles and relationships interacted within a group. This understanding allowed directors and participants to explore the role relationships and dynamics that influenced individual behavior and emotional expression.
Zerka Moreno regarded sociometry as an indispensable tool in psychodrama, offering insights into group dynamics, supporting role development, and fostering empathy and creativity within the therapeutic process. By utilizing sociometry, psychodrama directors can create a more nuanced and effective therapeutic environment, facilitating personal growth and healing for the participants.
Ann Hale’s Contribution to the Development of Sociometry
Ann Hale was an influential figure in the field of sociometry. She expanded on Moreno’s work by developing the “sociometric cycle,” which is a systematic approach to analyzing and understanding social networks and their evolution over time.
Ann Hale depicted the sociometric cycle as a circle broken into four equal quadrants. The original sociometric cycle, the quadrants were labels “spring, summer, fall, and winter.” These quadrants were further defined as follows:
Spring (Plus Plus – Sociometric Wealth):
In the spring season of the sociometric cycle, individuals experience a sense of belonging and sociometric wealth. This is characterized by “plus plus” connections, meaning that the individual’s sociometric choices are reciprocated by others, and they have a multitude of positive social connections available to them.
During spring, the individual feels a strong sense of inclusion and social support, as their positive interactions are met with positive responses from others. They may enjoy being part of various social circles, having many friends, and feeling appreciated by their peers. This sociometric wealth can be uplifting and fulfilling, providing a sense of belonging and acceptance.
However, the abundance of sociometric choices can also pose challenges. Each social connection requires time and effort to maintain, and the individual may feel overwhelmed or burdened by the reciprocal responsibilities. This could potentially lead to burnout if they struggle to manage their relationships effectively.
Summer (Plus Minus – Sociometric Struggles):
As the sociometric cycle transitions into summer, individuals may experience sociometric struggles characterized as “plus minus” connections. This means that while the individual has positive sociometric choices (plus), not all of their interactions are reciprocated positively (minus).
During summer, the individual may encounter social challenges, such as conflicts or strained relationships, resulting in occasional negative responses. This can lead to feelings of ambiguity and insecurity within the social network. The individual may need to navigate complexities, address conflicts, and work towards restoring balance in their social interactions.
Fall (Minus Minus – Sociometric Isolation):
In the fall season of the sociometric cycle, individuals may face sociometric isolation, represented as “minus minus” connections. This indicates that the individual’s sociometric choices are not reciprocated positively, and they may experience a lack of social support and connection.
During fall, the individual may feel excluded or marginalized within the social network. They might struggle to find meaningful social connections or experience rejection from their peers. Sociometric isolation can lead to feelings of loneliness and low self-esteem, impacting their overall well-being.
Winter (Minus Plus – Sociometric Transformation):
In the winter season, the sociometric cycle reaches its final stage, marked by sociometric transformation represented as “minus plus” connections. This means that the individual’s sociometric choices are reciprocated positively, but they may have limited sociometric choices available to them.
During winter, the individual may experience a shift in their social network, developing stronger and more meaningful connections with a smaller circle of supportive peers. While they may have fewer sociometric choices, the positive reciprocation brings a sense of stability and authenticity to their social interactions.
Ann Hale’s sociometric cycle provides a valuable framework for understanding the dynamics of social relationships over time. From the abundance of sociometric wealth in spring to the sociometric challenges and transformations in summer and winter, individuals go through various stages that impact their sociometric status and well-being. By recognizing and navigating these seasons, individuals can develop more fulfilling and balanced social connections, ultimately leading to improved social functioning and overall satisfaction in their relationships.
[i] Dayton Ph.D., Tian. The Living Stage: A Step-by-Step Guide to Psychodrama, Sociometry and Group Psychotherapy (p. 73). Health Communications, Inc.. Kindle Edition.