Home > Uncategorized > Fun with sociometry, part 1

Fun with sociometry, part 1

Sociometry is a quirky tool developed in the 50s by Jacob Moreno to measure small-group social dynamics.

Here’s how it works:

1. Choose a smallish, well-defined group of individuals, eg. an 8th grade classroom or the good folks in your accounting department… The more colorful the characters, the better.

2. Pick a sneaky question that reveals something about these people’s likes and dislikes, like “Who do you think is totally hot and could totally be your BFFWB?” or “Who would you share your stapler with?”

3. Ask each individual who they would pick based on that question.

This gives you the two first measures for each individual:

• POPULARITY = number of choices received

• SOCIABILITY = number of choices made (ie. does the individual choose lots of other people, or just a few)

4. Ask each individual “Who do you think chose you?” based on that same initial question.

This is the clever part. When you tally up and analyse the answers, this gives you two very interesting new measures:

• TRANSPARENCY = can people tell when you choose them?

• CONGRUENCE = do you usually choose people who choose you back?

With those measures in hand, you can start creating sociograms, which represent either the entire network of choices between all the people in the group, or one individual in the center with everyone else arrayed around them. You start seeing patterns and archetypes, like perhaps two strongly linked subgroups with just one person acting as a connector between them. Or a leader and her éminence grise, the person in the shadows who has all the real “link juice”. Or the charming but shy person who doesn’t have a clue that everbody is crazy about her.

Back in the 50s, Moreno had a hell of a time getting honest results, because people were understandably wary of spelling out their true feelings on mimeographed forms and handing them in. Also, analyzing and visualizing the data must have been a drag… no excel, no word, no web.

Next time i want to look at how this methodology could be retooled with robust privacy controls and served up as a social widget that any group could use to safely explore its own dynamics.

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  1. February 15, 2010 at 2:53 pm

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