How Is a Sociogram Made?

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Humans are social creatures, and human society itself remains a source of inquiry among academics and researchers. A subfield of sociology is sociometry: the quantitative measurement of social relations and conditions. A sociogram is a visualization of the interconnections between individuals within a group. It can be represented as a web-like diagram pinpointing who is linked to whom and to what degree.

The Origin of Sociograms

  • Psychologist Jacob Moreno first conceived of sociograms in 1933. In the initial model, he visualized the relationships between schoolchildren, using circles to represent female students and triangles for male students. Commenting on the significance of the sociogram, Moreno stated, "with these charts, we have the opportunity to graph the myriad of networks of human relations, and at the same time, view any part or portion which we desire to relate to or distinguish." In fact, the diagram predicted the eventual running away of two female students who were shown on the sociogram as being isolated from their peers. Moreno's innovation seems rather prescient today, an age of mappable, visual online social networking.

Survey Sample

  • There is no one single way to develop a sociogram, but generally, it begins with a survey filled out by each member of a group. The group can be an extended family, a school, a company or an even larger network. Each member notes on the survey his relation (or lack thereof) to other members. Some sociograms also have survey respondents record their degree of relation.

Matrix

  • Following the completion of the survey, the data is crunched and displayed in two-dimensional matrix form. The vertical and horizontal axes are inscribed with the names (real or encoded) of survey respondents, and each box is marked with a positive or negative symbol (or some other code) representing the existence or degree of a relationship.

Visual Representation

  • The data are then arranged spatially according to social interconnectedness. Here, symbols come into play. Different sociograms use different symbols, but often squares or circles are assigned to males, triangles are assigned to females, thick or double-lined arrows represent strong connections, thin or dotted arrows indicate weak connections, different colors correspond to hierarchical positions (useful in sociograms of a company's workforce), etc. Each person in the network is represented by a symbol, and lines are drawn between them. Sometimes sociograms depict multiple subgroups within a single subgroup. In this case, the different subgroups are clustered together and depict connections both within and between subgroups.

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