I thought I would write my blog on sociometry; including what it is, and what are the strengths and weaknesses of sociometric techniques.
Sociometry is a way of measuring relatedness between people. These sociometric tests can discover, describe and evaluate social status and structure, and can measure the acceptance or rejection felt between peers. Subjects within a group are usually asked to pick members that they like or prefer working with, depending on the context (i.e. if the subjects are school children or work colleagues).
The term was first coined by Jacob Moreno (1932-1938), when he was assigning residents from the New York State Training School for Girls to residential cottages. Sociometric tests were also used by Frederickson & Furnham (1998) to assess the social status of mainstreamed children with learning difficulties.
One advantage of sociometric testing is that because we are measuring group relations, this can help us come up with interventions to help improve these relations. For example, if we were carrying out sociometric tests on work colleagues, then this can help us pair workers together and reduce conflict and improve communication between colleagues. This has been shown in Hoffman et al’s (1992) study, where workers were asked to assess the effectiveness of an intervention that was designed from the findings of sociometric tests. They found that distrust/antagonism had been cut in helf and high trust had gone up by 19%.
However, because sociometric tests rely on self report, they suffer from all the weaknesses of this method, such as social desirability. This occurs when a subject wants to make themselves appear socially desirable to the researcher, so they may lie on personal questions to make themselves look better. Also, self report is completely subjective; a subject’s views may change depending on their mood-if they’re in a good mood they’ll typically be more positive and vice versa.
Also, there have been some ethical issues concerned with sociometric tests. This is mainly focused on negative views on fellow classmates in schools, and the possibility that children will compare their responses, resulting in negative social and emotional consequences for children who are not positively viewed by their peers.
Overall, I think the sociometric method is an extremely useful one, as its effectiveness has been shown in coming up with interventions to improve relationships between workers. However, researchers must be careful when using this, as there can be harsh consequences for the more negatively viewed subjects.