What is Sociometry?

J.L. Moreno was a psychiatrist born in 1889 in Romania.  He is credited with the development of group therapy, sociodrama and psychodrama.  One of his basic contributions is sociometry. Sociometry is the measurement of social choice, meaning the decisions, both conscious and unconscious, that are made regarding inter-personal affiliation. These measurement tools can be used to facilitate change.  (Garcia and Buchanan, 2000 pg. 166).  At its most basic level, sociometry addresses the various aspects of human connection.  We are constantly making choices about with whom we choose to affiliate. Sociometry is a method that can be used to concretize and explore these choices.  According to Tian Dayton, a trainer educator and practitioner of psychodrama, “feeling chosen, unchosen, rejected, invisible, isolated or having star status are issues that emerge naturally in groups and throughout sociometric investigation.  As such, sociometry offers a way to study groups in their concrete form.” (Dayton, 2005, pg 73).

In developing sociometry, Moreno sought to create a scientific methodology and set of intervention tools that could be used to study and change the basic human feelings such as acceptance and rejection, particularly as applicable to the group process.  Also, to study and where appropriate, intervene with the ways in which groups organize using various sociometric measures such as pairs, clusters, triangles, cleavages and other group formations.  This includes an assessment of those to whom we are drawn and those by whom we feel repelled.  Morenoo wanted to create a method to explore this. (Dayton, 2005, pg 75).

Sociometry is useful when looking at and measuring the choices made by the group as well as by the individual. When looking at sociometry, one can view it from the perspective of the group or the individual.  “When using sociometry in the group, there are four basic positions that individuals occupy: positive star, rejection star, isolate and star of incongruity.  All of these positions have benefits and liabilities.” (Garcia and Buchanan, 2000 pg. 166). Individuals who are highly selected, that is, who receive the most choices, are called “sociometric stars.”  Because choices can be either positive or negative so can the sociometric title, a positive sociometric star logically receives the most positive choices, while the sociometric rejection star is the individual receiving the greatest number of negative choices.  (Garcia and Buchanan, 2000 pg. 166).

It is easy to see the allure of being popular, that is, being the positive star, rather than being unpopular, that is, being the rejection star.  When considered further, it becomes clear that there is also a toll involved in being highly chosen for a positive attribute, skill, or behavior. Each positive choice carries with it an assumed need to reciprocate the choice, or to take some other action, having so many positive choices can become a burden.

The opposite is true of being the rejection star.  This individual has no need to reciprocation and to him or her is imputed no responsibility. “She is also freed from the norms, rules and expectations of the group. It has been said that the positive start belongs to the group and the rejection star belongs to him or herself.” (Garcia and Buchanan, 2000 pg. 166). However, being a rejection star does carry with it its own potential burden. When carried on too long, or in too extreme a fashion, the group may engage in bullying or scapegoating the negative star.

“A person may be in isolate when he or she neither chooses, nor is chosen based upon a particular criteria. Those who persistently choose isolation and who are persistently not chosen are true isolates. The star of incongruity is the person who receives the greatest number of incongruous choices.” (Garcia and Buchanan, 2000 pg. 166).