Brief explanation of an approach that was put into base during development of SociometryPro, presented at this web site.

Term "sociometry" means the need in measuring the interpersonal relations in a team. The founder of sociometry approach is a famous psychiatrist and social psychologist Jacob L. Moreno. In accordance to Moreno, the complex of interpersonal relations in a team predefines a primary social and psychological basement of the team. And the features of this basement mainly predefine the internal state of each person in the team (not only what the team is itself).

Sociometry approach is applied for diagnosing the interpersonal and intergroup relations with the purpose of their changing, improving and developing. Sociometry helps to define how the people behave in a team.

Together with formal or informal structure of communication which presents the rational and mandatory aspect of human relations, any social team contains the psychological structure of informal level. This structure is formed as a system on interpersonal relations, sympathies and antipathies. Mainly, the peculiarities of such a structure depend on preferences of the members, their psychological accepting and understanding to each other, self-rating and rating to others. As a rule, such teams contain several informal structures. They can be structures of aid-giving behavior, mutual influence, popularity, leadership, etc.

Informal structure depends on formal one as much as the members can collaborate together for the group purposes. Sociometry helps to evaluate this influence. Sociometry methods allow in looking the interpersonal relations in a view of values and charts. This can help to get the necessary information about team state.

To provide a sociometry research, any informal structure must be always reflected (whether we desire that or no) to formal one or to the structure of the business and legal relations. In this way, it will impact to the team solidarity and effectiveness. And this is really verified by practice! A general purpose of sociometry is looking for the internal psychological state and the climate in a group.

Sociometry procedure. When the questions or criteria are defined, they are fixed at a special sociometry card or can be used verbally in form of interview. Each team member should answer the questions, choosing the other members in the team in accordance to their preferences.

Here, the sociometry procedure can be provided in two forms. First form is non-parametric procedure. In this case, a member will answer the sociometry card questions without limitations to the number of choices. For example, if there are 12 members in a team then any member can point to other 11 members except to himself. Accordingly, the theoretical number of choices from any team member is equal (N - 1), where N - the number of team members. In the same way, any member can get (M-1) number of choices from other members. It must be mentioned right now that (N-1) is main numeric constant of sociometry research. In case of parametric procedure, this constant is equal both for a member who makes the choices and for a member who gets the ones. The advantage of this procedure is that it allows in determination of so called emotional effusiveness for each team member, in building the diversity of interpersonal relations in team structure. However, increasing the number of team members up to 12-16 ones results in the growth of the number of relations. Accordingly, it becomes hard to calculate the parameters without software tools.

Another disadvantage of a non-parametric procedure is great probability to get the random choices. Often, in accordance to private reasons, some members fix in questionnaires something similar to "I'm choosing to everybody". It's clear that such answers can have two explanations: may be the members really have very comfortable relations with others (although, it's unlikely) or may be the members are hiding the reality covered by a formal loyalty to others (that is more likely).

Analysis of the similar situations enforced some researchers to change the sociometry procedure itself. To decrease the level of random choices, a new approach was born - parametric procedure with limited number of choices. In this case, a team member must to choose fixed number of other members. For example, each one must to point to 4-5 others in a team of 25 members. The number of choices in this procedure is called Sociometry Limit (or Limit of Choices).

Many researchers believe that usage of Sociometry Limit is able to significantly increase the success of getting the true data and alleviate the calculations at all. From psychological point of view, Sociometry Limit enforces to everybody to answer more accurately during the sociometry procedure. And usually the final results actually contain the information about the real leaders, partners or members who was rejected by others in a team. Sociometry Limit significantly decreases the probability of raising the random answers and allows in unifying the conditions of different sociometry procedures in teams with different number of people. And it helps to compare the results for different groups in different researches.

Nowadays, many researchers believe that minimal value of Sociometry Limit for a team with 22 - 25 members should be equal 4-5 choices. Important distinction for the second variant of sociometry procedure is that sociometry constant (N-1) is fixed for input choices only (choices from a team to a member).

The disadvantage of sociometry parametric procedure is impossibility to discover all diversity of interpersonal relations in a team. You can discover the most valuable subjective relations only. In this case, the sociometry structure of a team will reflect most typical and selective communications only. Usage of Sociometry Limit doesn't give a conclusion about the emotional effusiveness of team members.

Sociometry procedure is targeted to:

  • Measuring the level of solidarity and dissociation in a team
  • Detecting «sociometry positions» in sense of so called popularity of team members in accordance to sympathies and antipathies (the last positions on two sides are team leaders and members rejected)
  • Detecting intergroup subsystems or internal integrated formations where other informal leaders can be in the head

Sociometry card or sociometry questionnaire is produced at the end of the procedure. Here, each team member must fix his relation to others in the team in accordance to predefined criteria (for example, to work together, to participate in a project, to provide the leisure hours, to participate in a game and so on). Criteria are defined in depending on the sociometry research program: whether you need to discover the relations in the business team, or leisure one, or a temporary or permanent one, etc.

N Type Criteria Choices
1 Work

1). Who is you want to have a project leader?
2). Who is you don't want to have a project leader?

 
2 Leisure

1). Who can be invited by you for celebration of the Christmas?
2). Who can't be invited by you for celebration of the Christmas?

 

During the sociometry procedure without predefined Sociometry Limit, you must have enough space after each question to write full and expanded answers. When using predefined Sociometry Limit, you must have the same number of columns as the value of Sociometry Limit to the right from each question. The next table can help you to set the correct value of Sociometry Limit depending on the number of team members and the probability of random choice P(A) if it's in the range of 0,14-0,25.

Number of members in group Sociometry Limit d Probability of random selection P(A)
5-7 1 0.20-0.14
8-11 2 0.25-0.18
12-16 3 0.25-0.19
17-21 4 0.23-0.19
22-26 5 0.22-0.19
27-31 6 0.22-0.19
32-36 7 0.21-0.19

When the sociometry card are gathered and filled, you can start the calculations. The simplest ways to present the sociometry results are tables, charts and indexes.

Sociometry matrix. Usually, at first, you have to build a simple sociometry matrix. A sample of this is shown next. The results of choices are pointed in the sociomatrix using special signs.

A sample of sociomatrix for a team

Picture 1. A sample of a sociomatrix for a team (built with SociometryPro software)

Analysis of sociometry matrix for each question gives full picture to understand the relations in a team.

Here, you can build the summarized sociomatrixes which can present the choices over several questions. Moreover, you can build a sociomatrix for interteam choices. In perspective, you can unite the data over two and more questions. The main advantage of the sociometry matrix is that all choices can be demonstrated as the numbers. And it can allow in sorting the members by the number of input and output choices, defining the order of influences in a team. Resulting from sociomatrix, you can create a sociogram or a card of sociometry choices (sociocard), perform the calculation of sociometry indexes.

Sociogram. Sociogram is a schema of reactions amongst the team members to each other in accordance to a predefined sociometry question. Sociogram provides comparison analysis for the team structure relations at a plane with special signs (Picture 4).

A sample of sociogram taken from SociometryPro

Picture 2. A sample of sociogram built with SociometryPro software

Sociogram is an important addition to a table approach when analyzing the sociometry data because it gives the way for deeper and more qualitative presentation of the team relations.

Analysis based on usage of sociogram is started from looking for the central or most influencing members, pairs of members and internal groups in a team. The internal groups consist of mutually related people striving to choose to each other. Often, sociometry researches discover the internal groups including 2, 3 members. Seldom, such groups include 4 and more members.

Sociometry indexes. There are personal and group sociometry indexes. The first ones are characteristics of the psychological features of a person in a team. The second ones describe the features of the group communication structures.

Sociometry status is a key feature for a person showing the position of a member in a team. This is a value that directly shows how a member is related to others. Such a feature isn't equally distributed over the group elements and can be measured by a special value - so called index of sociometry status. Here, sociometry structure elements are persons or team members. Each of them impacts to others in different degree: communicates with them, exchanges by information and so on. At the same time, each team member being a part of a group impacts to the group itself. This influence is realized in different forms of social and psychological interaction. Subjective value of such an influence can be characterized by a value of sociometry status. But a person can impact to others in two ways: positively or negatively. Therefore, sociometry status can be whether positive or negative one.

Status is a value of the leadership in relation to a team member. To calculate the sociometry status, you need to use sociomatrix data.

It's available to calculate positive (C+) and negative (C-) status for small groups (with N members).

Reliability of the considered procedure mainly depends on correctness in definition of sociometry questions. It's defined by the purpose of the program research and preliminary information about the specific features of a team. Sociometry status allows defining the formal and informal leaders to restructure the teams (it can help to decrease the problems resulting from the hostility of different team members).

Sociometry procedure is provided for a group of people and not for each person separately. It doesn't spend much time (often, enough about 15 minutes). It's enormously useful in practice! It can be used to enhance the interpersonal relations.

Software. The difficulty when calculating the sociometry results predefines the need to use special software in practice. The software helps to accelerate calculating and exclude the human mistakes. Nowadays, one of the simplest and most comfortable software programs is SociometryPro, produced by LeDiS Group developers.