Sociometric Tests

10 03 2012

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.



12 responses

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17 04 2012

Don’t know how to argue this but will give I a go 🙂

I find it important to recognise and discuss advantages and disadvantages of methods to best under line which are good and others which can be improved upon or deemed practically useless. However, this relies on the common sense and logic of researchers and what best to improve a research common scene is by reading reports.

Reports into research methods are always a good way to give evaluations from masters in that field (or so we assume), I found these fantastic to use in my project proposal as they do give an in-depth study of the topic and the research in that field ( Rusting, 1998 – personality, mood and cognitive processing of emotional information of three conceptual frame works, Giovanna Colombetti Appraising Valence or the review of J.A.Gray’s reinforcement sensitivity theory (RST) of personality are all good examples of what I mean). The Google book ‘For and Against Method: Including Lakatos’s Lectures on Scientific Method’ ,by Imre Lakatos, Paul Feyerabend, Matteo Motterlin ( gives a review on Lakatos’s thoughts on the scientific method . From such reports we can learn more of the disadvantages and advantages of scientific methods and better understand the scientific methods we come across or use in our degree.

Summary: Knowing the advantages and disadvantages of a method helps underline problems that researcher may be faced with, reports/reviews/evaluations on scientific methods or fields can help improve our understanding.

16 03 2012
16 03 2012

I really like your blog and how you have found a different yet relevant topic to discuss. I think this is an interesting methodology because it contributes to a lot more areas than it suggests on the surface. For example as you mentioned how it can evaluate a child’s social status but using this as a measure in the study of peer rejection can also help in the exploration of a child’s development such as how their social-cognitive skills and behaviours develop (Asher & Coie, 1990). This methodology can do this because it can show how different types of popularity and unpopularity are stable or unstable over time (Asher & Coie, 1990). However I like others (Maassen, van Boxtel & Goossens, 2005) do agree that it is a difficult measure because it uses self reports and that test-retest reliability is variable and therefore there is not always evidence that Coie’s theory on peer rejection . Although this has a large negative impact on the sociometric methodology I still think that it has the potential to be a very useful tool given time and research.
Asher, S. R. & Coie, J.D. (1990)
Maassen, G. H., van Boxtel, H.W. & Goossens, F.A. (2005).

14 03 2012
13 03 2012

I agree that sociometric tests should carry on being used but with caution. Sociometric tests are commonly used in interviews to determine who might be more suitable for a job by assessing different skills ( Indeed The Sociometric Interview and the Peer Perception of Social Behavior seem to be able to predict popularity as you said, and other sociometric tests also appear to predict criteria such as productivity, effectiveness, initiative and leadership (Mouton, Blake, Fruchter). These sociometric tests carry advantages. They have resulted in « a drop in monthly turnover and 5% savings in total production » as claimed by Van Zelst, R. H. Data collection thereby allows for a detailed and broad description of the situation. However, there are also disadvantages, as you said. Sociometric tests can lead to racial segregation and sexual discrimination. They carry further problems with reliabilty : measures aren’t stable and with validity : we assume we are measuring what we think we are observing.

13 03 2012
13 03 2012

Interesting points about the reliability of self-report measures. With regards to the social desirability problem, there are ways to combat this. For example the Edwards Personal Preference Schedule uses pairs of statements that have been graded and matched in terms of social desirability. This can eliminate any problems arising from social desirability. I do think, however, that there are a number of problems with this approach. For example, you only choose between 2 statements. I get the fact that you choose the one MOST like yourself, even if it isn’t exactly true, but this just causes problems. What if both of them truly don’t reflect you? I had to take a very similar test during selection for a pilot’s course with easyJet, and the results described someone very different to me!
Another point raised was regarding the subjectivity of self-report. I understand that science strives to be objective, but what these sociometric tests are trying to measure is very subjective in the first place, for example trust. There’s no hard and fast rule to measure trust. The only way you really can measure it is by asking someone how much they trust someone else. Whilst this may be subjective, it would also be pretty close to the truth, as the individual is the only person who truly knows how they feel. I understand problems come when trying to compare what trust means to two different people, but the point is that what most people may see as a weakness of self-report measures may in fact be one of its strengths!

11 03 2012

Nice blog. But how affective are these kinds of test when applied to data. Many have found these types of measures to have a much higher error or much more likely to find a type 1 or 2 error. Although useful with some data it is not always the measure used with human participants. How can researchers use this method better as most miss use and have false data as a result. It is very unreliable at times and it is not the best method when measuring participants.

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