The term “sociometry” has several meanings, but historically the closest association is with the work of J. L. Moreno, particularly his analysis of inter-personal relations in Who Shall Survive? (1934). Sociometry is traditionally identified with the analysis of data collected by means of the sociometric test—a type of questionnaire in which, roughly speaking, each member of a group is asked with which members he would most like to carry out some activity. The sociometric test was developed by Moreno and his associates, who made brilliant use of it in their own research.
In the early 1940s a number of pronouncements were made on what the meaning of the word “sociometry” should be, and Moreno himself (1943) urged that the meaning should not be restricted to the instruments he had developed. Although his sentiment and that of others was that “sociometry” should refer generally to the measurement of social phenomena, the fact is that the instruments developed by Moreno are still the almost universal reference point for the term.
Data collection. The form of the sociometric question and the setting in which data are collected permit a great variety of alternatives. The question must indicate to the subjects the setting or scope of choice. Thus, if the setting is a classroom it is appropriate to phrase the question accordingly (“With which students in the classroom would you like to discuss this problem?”). Otherwise, the subjects might choose such persons as the teacher, friends or relatives outside the classroom, or even experts whom they do not know personally. The planned activity (in this case, a classroom discussion) should also be clearly defined, so that the subjects know for what purpose the choice is made. This procedure may be contrasted with ratings, by means of which a person attributes characteristics to others but does not have to decide whether he wishes to associate with any of them.
In the “applied” use of the sociometric technique, say by the classroom teacher, the choice of criteria may be related to practical objectives. On the one hand, the teacher may wish to restructure the group subsequently on the assumption that more effective work can be carried out by children when they themselves have selected their co-workers. On the other hand, the purpose of the teacher may run just counter to this type of restructuring, and the objective might be to force more interaction with persons one might ordinarily avoid. In the early days of sociometry, the experimenters, possibly because of the therapeutic concerns of Moreno and his associates, often felt obliged to restructure the group regardless of the circumstances. But with the more general use of the technique, this implication has disappeared. In fact, sociometric questions are often phrased hypothetically (“Assuming there could be another meeting of this group, with which persons would you most want to participate?”). There is no indication that a hypothetical phrasing of the question is less useful than one that implies actual restructuring of the group, but there is a continued mandate for rele-vance in the phrasing of the question.
As in any research procedure, the use of the sociometric question requires attention to the general abilities of the subjects; to take an obvious example, children who cannot yet read or write will have to be interviewed. Under such circumstances the social setting for asking the questions must ensure privacy and confidentiality, and the interviewer should make sure that the child is not intimidated by, or made fearful of, the situation; otherwise, the validity of the responses may be affected. Collecting data through the sociometric question, however, is intrinsically a simple procedure and should be adaptable to most situations. Variations range from the use of a single question asking for a simple listing of choices on one criterion to a battery of questions in which ordered choices and rejections are requested on many criteria.
Questionnaire construction. In utilizing socio-metric questions, the form in which the data are collected determines the types of results that can be obtained. For example, the number of choices requested may be limited or unlimited. If the choices are unlimited, the total number of choices made in the group may be compared for different groups of the same size or for the same group on different occasions; if the choices are limited, however, comparisons based on the total number of choices are meaningless, since the total number of choices is determined by the instructions. But the total number of choices in a group has the ad-vantage of being a relatively simple score to under-stand, and it has associations with group cohesiveness and morale. For instance, Goodacre (1951) found that a high rate of choosing within the group was associated with a high standard of group effectiveness; reduced to the simplest interpretation, it appears that if members of the group consider each other good for the operation of the group, the group is likely to be successful. While this may not seem a profound finding on the surface, it is at present virtually the only dependable association with group effectiveness beyond the predictions that successful groups will continue to be successful and that groups composed of persons with high demonstrated ability will be successful.
Permitting an unlimited number of choices is required if networks of social relationships are to be traced. Obviously, a clique structure involving ten people cannot effectively be found in a larger group if only three choices are permitted to each person. Since Moreno was originally concerned with the analysis of group structure at this level, the procedure traditionally recommended has been the use of unlimited choices. However, many alternative procedures have been suggested, including the following: a limited specific number of choices; a limited number of ordered choices; an ordered ranking of the entire group; paired comparisons within the group; estimates of the amount of time one wants to spend with others; guessing who has a particular characteristic or reputation; and rating each person within the group for particular characteristics. Of course, the possibility of negative choices (rejections) and the use of multiple criteria increase the number of alternative choices.
Sociometric description. The patterns of expressed choices can be represented graphically in the sociogram, which involves the use of some geometric figure to indicate each person (for example, a circle with a name in it) and connecting lines or arrows showing the direction of the choices. Although the use of sociograms in early studies was haphazard, a number of empirically based and theoretically important concepts were derived from them by Moreno and others.
The simplest concept is that of the unchosen, who may be viewed as the person socially isolated by others. In the early tradition, the isolate is the person who makes no choices and receives none; in this sense he is totally apart from the group. However, in common use, “isolate” has had the same meaning as “unchosen.” The term “under-chosen” is also found in the literature, but it tends to be less desirable, as it implies some expected level of being chosen. The rejected person, of course, can be distinguished only when the socio-metric test has requested rejections (“With whom would you like to do this activity least?”) as well as choices. Rejection of one person by another implicitly involves active dislike, while ignoring a person or not choosing him could indicate merely a lack of sufficient contact for the development of a crystallized attitude. When both positive and negative forms of the question are used in larger groups, however, persons who are unchosen when the positive-choice form of the sociometric question is used tend to be the ones who are rejected in the negative form of the question, and vice versa.
The highly chosen person has been viewed as being in a desirable position. The term “overchosen” was commonly encountered in the early socio-metric literature but is no longer widely used. The concept of the sociometric star has had some ap-peal; the image evoked by the concept is one of the highly chosen persons surrounded by persons who are less chosen than the “star.” The popular leader is a similar concept, and being highly chosen is most frequently associated with some notion of leadership. Popularity (being highly chosen) and leadership are not synonymous, however, and the distinction has been clearly indicated in the literature (Criswell & Jennings 1951). While the popular person may be the leader, there may be other persons with whom power resides, and the power figure—that is, the person chosen by others who are in key positions—may not be a popular person at all. The distinction between popularity and leadership arises most clearly in the sociometric literature in consideration of the content of sociometric questions. Helen H. Jennings (1947) has discussed the difference between sociogroup and psychegroup, distinguished according to whether the basis of choice lies in the task area or the social area. When the task-oriented (sociogroup) question is used, the highly chosen person is likely to be the leader; on the other hand, when the socially oriented (psychegroup) question is used, the highly chosen person is likely to be the popular or personally attractive person.
The concepts mentioned thus far, while related to the structure of relationships, refer to particular persons or types of persons within the structure. But even in the earliest sociometric studies, a great deal of attention was paid to networks of relationships. Part of the attraction was that arrangements or relationships between persons were easily named; for example, mutual pair and mutual rejection are obvious concepts. The description of relationships between persons becomes most intricate in the area that has come to be called relational analysis, which commonly involves both the calculation of all possible choices and rejections in a given situation and some attempt at predicting how the actual choices and rejections will be distributed (see, for instance, Tagiuri 1952). The study of even more complex arrangements of relationships has led to the use of more complex names for them. Geo-metric names, such as “triangle” and “quadrangle,” have proved to have only limited applicability; more important theoretically have been looser configurations such as “chains” and “rings,” which enter into the analysis of clique structure.
The sociogram—problems and proposals. The sociogram was ubiquitous in the early development of sociometric techniques, but although important concepts were associated with such diagrams, they were frequently used for display rather than for analytic purposes. When the person constructing the diagram had a specific implicit hypothesis, the diagrams could be dramatic. For example, the absence of choices across sex lines in elementary classroom groups would appear dramatic if the symbols for all the boys were located on one end of the page and those for the girls on the other. Similarly, if racial or ethnic groups were segregated in sections of the paper, the relative absence of connecting lines between these groups could be seen easily, in contrast to the many connecting lines within them. Analysis of clique structure, on the other hand, or the location of complex choice networks, can be almost impossible to represent in the form of a sociogram.
Alternative proposals for construction of socio-grams have been numerous. Some techniques, such as the “target” sociogram (Northway 1940), emphasize choice status, indicated by concentric circles with the most chosen person as the center-most circle and patterns of relationships shown in the usual way with arrows. This alternative has not been used extensively, nor have the other techniques that emphasize the choice status of the person. Another such method (Powell 1951) suggests the use of symbols of different sizes, with large symbols, for example, meaning a large number of choices received by the person; yet another method (Proctor & Loomis 1951) makes use of physical distance between points on the sociogram to repre-sent the “choice distance” between persons (mutual pairs, very close; mutual rejections, very distant). Still more complex descriptive devices, such as multidimensional diagrams (Chapin 1950), are also used, but the fact is that the analytic utility of sociograms appears to be small. Their descriptive utility, however, has remained, and the trend in this direction has been toward the simplification of diagrams, the procedure of minimizing crossing lines being common (Borgatta 1951).
Sociometric analysis. Analytic techniques, as contrasted with descriptive techniques, have stressed both the development of meaningful indexes of choice and the need for systematic analysis of the total choice matrix. Indexes are usually developed with a view to applying particular concepts, and it should be recognized that even such arbitrary classifications as “un-chosen” and “highly chosen” are already indexes of the simple concept of sociometric choice. But indexes in sociometry usually represent more complex classifications and are often directed toward making different sets of data comparable. For ex-ample, an index may take into account the number of persons choosing, so that groups of different sizes are made comparable. Many problems arise in the construction of indexes, however, and the literature abounds with cautions that the attempt to “take something into account” in an index may not only fail but may also involve even more serious problems than those the researcher is trying to alleviate.
Matrix techniques. Beginning with the work of Moreno and Jennings (1938), considerable attention has been given to the question of the statistical significance of findings. Earlier approaches to this problem (see, for instance, Bronfenbrenner 1943) are now generally regarded as impractical, but the discussion they provoked has resulted in emphasis on the models underlying choices in a group. In order to make sociometric data more amenable to statistical manipulation, Forsyth and Katz (1946) proposed that the cumbersome device of the socio-gram be replaced by a matrix of N x N dimension (where N is the number of people in the group); choices or rejections could then be indicated clearly by marking the appropriate cell in the matrix with a plus or minus sign—so that, for instance, a plus in the tenth column of the fifth row would record that the fifth person had chosen the tenth.
In their original study, Forsyth and Katz attached special importance to choices recorded near the main diagonal of the matrix (the diagonal itself, of course, indicated self-choices); they also paid some attention to clusters of mutual choices and to adjacent clusters that had some members in common. A sophisticated variation of this procedure by Beum and Brundage (1950) was subsequently generalized for efficient computer analysis (Borgatta & Stolz 1963).
Both of the techniques just described depend essentially on the notion of rearranging the data as already given in the N x N matrix. In contrast, the matrix multiplication approach suggested by Leon Festinger (1949) has emphasized the identification of more formally defined structures. Subsequent work of this kind has been particularly directed toward naming and detecting ever more complex patterns of relationships (see, for instance, Luce 1950; Katz 1953; Harary & Ross 1957). This is a definite advance from the earlier sociometric studies, which were concerned mainly with patterns of mutual choice.
Other approaches to analysis of the matrix of choices have made use of graph theory (Harary & Norman 1953; Ramanujacharyulu 1964) and factor analysis (MacRae I960); factor analysis is related to the rearrangement techniques noted above, so that the two approaches complement each other. There is also a technique based on cluster analysis (Bock & Husain 1950) that has aroused favorable comment (Ragsdale 1965).
Interest in the development of these analytic procedures reached a peak in the early 1950s; since then, the number of studies published has fallen off but seems likely to maintain a steady level. Nevertheless, there have been few applications of these procedures, possibly because they call for types of data that are not readily accessible in many adult social situations.
Reliability and validity . Although some research has been done on the question of the reliability and validity of sociometric procedures, it has received little attention in recent years. One early review (Mouton et al. 1955) indicated some of the limitations of sociometric procedures from the point of view of the stability of measures. Among other problems, the stability of the measuring instrument is confounded with the stability of persons and social structures. Validity is especially difficult to assess in sociometry, since the sociometric indexes are so often seen as the criteria to be predicted. Intrinsically, sociometric information represents the objective depicting of the situation on the basis of the most relevant judges—those with whom one participates. Thus, there has been some tendency to emphasize the prediction of sociometric status on the basis of other characteristics rather than to use sociometric status to predict other variables.
Applications of sociometry. Sociometric procedures have been incorporated into many different types of studies. For example, in small group research one of the common types of information collected in post-meeting questionnaires is the set of sociometric ratings on criteria relevant to the group participation. On this score, it should be emphasized that sociometric procedures as classically defined have tended to merge with more general procedures for obtaining peer ratings and rankings. The structure of self rankings and peer rankings has been systematically explored by various researchers, with some convergence on the types of content involved and some crystallization of information about the stability of measures (Borgatta 1964). Content corresponding to that initially identified by Jennings (1947) with task and with social concerns has continued to be central, but other concepts have also been found to recur in analyses.
Sociometric procedures have also been important to the development of several other research areas. For example, study of the impact of group structure on the characteristics of its members or on group consequences, such as efficiency of task completion or morale of the group, has made necessary a more formal development of notions of communication networks. An extensive review of this research literature (Glanzer & Glaser 1961) has suggested the limitations of such approaches and has placed them in their historical context.
Sociometric techniques remain pervasive in the social sciences, having relevance to personality re-search, small group research, analysis of networks of communication and group structures, and to special topics such as the reputational study of social status in the community and the study of segregation patterns.
Edgar F. Borgatta
[See alsoCohesion, Social; Groups, articles onthe study of groups, group formation, andROLE STRUCTURE. Other relevant material may be found inCLUSTERING; FACTOR ANALYSIS; GRAPHIC PRESENTATION; SEGREGATION.]
Beum, Corlin O.; and Brundage, Everett G. 1950 A Method for Analyzing the Sociomatrix. Sociometry 13:141-145.
Bock, R. Darrell; and Husain, Suraya Z. 1950 An Adaptation of Holzinger‘s B-coefficients for the Analysis of Sociometric Data. Sociometry 13:146-153.
Borgatta, Edgar F. 1951 A Diagnostic Note on the Construction of Sociograms and Action Diagrams. Group Psychotherapy 3:300-308.
Borgatta, Edgar F. 1964 The Structure of Personality Characteristics. Behavioral Science 9:8-17.
Borgatta, Edgar F.; and Stolz, Walter 1963 A Note on a Computer Program for Rearrangement of Matrices. Sociometry 26:391-392.
Bronfenbrenner, Urie 1943 A Constant Frame of Reference for Sociometric Research. Sociometry 6: 363-397.
Chapin, F. Stuart 1950 Sociometric Stars as Isolates. American Journal of Sociology 56:263-267.
Criswell, Joan H.; and Jennings, Helen H. 1951 A Critique of Chapin‘s “Sociometric Stars as Isolates.” American Journal of Sociology 57:260-264.
Festinger, Leon 1949 The Analysis of Sociograms Using Matrix Algebra. Human Relations 2:153-158.
Forsyth, Elaine; and Katz, Leo 1946 A Matrix Approach to the Analysis of Sociometric Data: Preliminary Report. Sociometry 9:340-347.
Glanzer, Murray; and Glaser, Robert 1961 Techniques for the Study of Group Structure and Behavior: 2. Empirical Studies of the Effects of Structure in Small Groups. Psychological Bulletin 58:1-27.
Goodacre, Daniel M. 1951 The Use of a Sociometric Test as a Predictor of Combat Unit Effectiveness. Sociometry 14:148-152.
Harary, Frank; and Norman, Robert Z. 1953 Graph Theory as a Mathematical Model in Social Science. Research Center for Group Dynamics, Publication No. 2. Ann Arbor: Univ. of Michigan, Institute for Social Research.
Harary, Frank; and Ross, Ian C. 1957 A Procedure for Clique Detection Using the Group Matrix. Sodometry 20:205-215.
Jennings, Helen H. 1947 Sociometric Differentiation of the Psychegroup and the Sociogroup. Sociometry 10:71-79.
Katz, Leo 1953 A New Status Index Derived From Sociometric Analysis. Psychometrika 18:39-43.
Lindzey, Gardner; and Borgatta, Edgar F. 1954 Sociometric Measurement. Volume 1, pages 405-448 in Gardner Lindzey (editor), Handbook of Social Psychology. Cambridge, Mass.: Addison-Wesley.
Luce, R. Duncan 1950 Connectivity and Generalized Cliques in Sociometric Group Structure. Psychometrika 15:169-190.
Luce, R. Duncan; and Perry, Albert D. 1949 A Method of Matrix Analysis of Group Structure. Psychometrika 14:95-116.
Macrae, Duncan Jr. 1960 Direct Factor Analysis of Sociometric Data. Sociometry 23:360-371.
Moreno, Jacob L. (1934) 1953 Who Shall Survive? Foundations of Sociometry, Group Psychotherapy and Sociodrama. Rev. & enl. ed. Beacon, N.Y.: Beacon House.
Moreno, Jacob L. 1943 Sociometry and the Cultural Order. Sociometry 6:299-344.
Moreno, Jacob L.; and Jennings, Helen H. 1938 Statistics of Social Configurations. Sociometry 1:342-374.
Moreno, Jacob L. et al. (editors) 1960 The Sociometry Reader. Glencoe, Ill.: Free Press.
Mouton, Jane S.; Blake, Robert R.; and Fruchter, Benjamin 1955 The Reliability of Sociometric Measures. Sociometry 18:7-48.
Northway, Mary L. 1940 A Method for Depicting Social Relationships Obtained by Sociometric Testing. Sociometry 3:144-150.
Proctor, Charles H.; and Loomis, Charles P. 1951 Analysis of Sociometric Data. Part 2, pages 561-585 in Research Methods in Social Relations, With Especial Reference to Prejudice, by Marie Jahoda, Morton Deutsch, and Stuart W. Cook. New York: Dryden.
Ragsdale, R. G. 1965 Evaluation of Sociometric Measures Using Stochastically Generated Data. Ph.D. dissertation, Univ. of Wisconsin.
Ramanujacharyulu, C. 1964 Analysis of Preferential Experiments. Psychometrika 29:257-261.
Ross, Ian C.; and Harary, Frank 1952 On the Determination of Redundancies in Sociometric Chains. Psychometrika 17:195-208.
Tagiuri, Renato 1952 Relational Analysis: An Extension of Sociometric Method With Emphasis Upon Social Perception. Sociometry 15:91-104.
Sociometry, by definition, measures the “socius”—the interpersonal connection between two people (Moreno 1951). The founder of sociometry, Jacob L. Moreno (1889–1974), conceived three levels of sociometry (Moreno  1993), applying the term sociometry to each (tending to cause confusion). These levels are:
theoretical system (alternately termed sociatry )— including role, social atom, spontaneity/encounter, psychodrama/enactment, and sociometry theories;
subtheory of that system; and
assessment method and intervention (Hale 1981; Remer 2006).
Historically sociometry was a central influence in sociology and related areas, even producing several dedicated journals. Over time, though, its influence has diminished to such a point that, at most, one of its central constructs—the sociogram—gets only passing mention in assessment texts (e.g., Cohen and Swerdlik 2005; Cronbach 1970; Gronlund 1971). However, a complete understanding of sociometry provides tremendously powerful structures and tools for use not only in small group interactions but also wherever and whenever interpersonal dynamics come into play.
Grasping the entire sociometric system is optimal, but popularly sociometry theory is focused on measuring relationships, the purview of both social atom theory (longterm relationships and their development and maintenance over time) and sociometry (fluctuation of interpersonal connections over short periods). The sociogram is the representation of sociometry (see Figure 1).
Beyond the conception of humans as essentially social beings, sociometry recognizes and uses the fact that all these connections are perpetually manifest in the social choices we make—for example, with whom we eat lunch; whom we marry; whom we sit next to in classes, receptions, and other meetings; whom we like and do not like (based on tele, warm-up, role reciprocity). Using both positive (choose/acceptance/attraction) and negative (not-choose/rejection/repulsion) choices, the connections between people and the patterns of connections throughout groups are made manifest, explored, and influenced (Remer 1995a, 1995b; Remer and Finger 1995; Remer, Lima, Richey, et al. 1995).
The key to using sociometry as an assessment and intervention (like Heisenberg’s principle) most effectively is understanding Moreno’s full conceptualization. The misconception is that sociometry stops with the production of the sociogram from choices expressed related to a specific criterion (e.g., “With whom would you most and least want to sit at a wedding reception?”). This level is what Moreno called “near [‘weak’] sociometry” (my label). “Strong” sociometry requires two conditions beyond eliciting choices and depicting them: (1) The choices must be implemented (e.g., you must sit with whom you have chosen), and (2) the reasons for choosing must be made overt and explored. The last two conditions present many possibilities and difficulties.
Implementing the choices makes them real in the sense that the full impact of a choice is experienced (e.g., you can say I’ll sit with Aunt Bertha to be nice, but actually sitting with her may inform you fully why others have not opted for that seat). So future choices will be influenced. Arriving at an optimal implementation is challenging because not everyone can have one of his or her positives, and some must endure a negative—regardless of how many selections are allowed (a phenomenon addressed by the theory).
Examining choice rationales presents other challenges. People tend to be uncomfortable with the process because, for example, they believe that feelings may be hurt or they are confused by their own ambivalences and lack of awareness of their reasons. Reservations have some validity but usually not nearly to the degree feared. The benefit derives from probing projections attendant— assumptions about the rationales and/or expectations for the choices. At worst, some perceptions are confirmed; at best and more often, the rationales do not conform to suppositions in informative ways (e.g., you are not chosen by a friend because you see each other frequently and he or she wants to visit with others, or you are chosen by someone because you are seen as the only less talkative person in the group). Negatives are not necessarily “bad,” nor are positives necessarily “good.” Learning reasons challenges assumptions and/or provides the basis for changing behaviors—a not inconsequential therapeutic value.
The sociograms (Figure 1) and the choices from which it is constructed (Figure 2) clarify these points and introduce terminology to illustrate the strengths of sociometry. The data are real, using the criterion “From whom would you like feedback?” based on two positive and two negative choices.
The pattern of choices shows that D is the “star” (that is, he or she receives the most choices) and F is a “rejectee” (he or she receives no positive choices and a number of negative choices); everyone else is a “member” (receiving some positive and perhaps some negative choices). No “isolate” (someone receiving no choices) appears. C, D,
|Sociometric Choice Matrix|
|+ Choices Received||1||1||3||5||3||0||1|
|- Choices Received||2||3||1||0||1||3||2|
|Total Choices Received||3||4||4||5||4||3||3|
and E form a “subgroup,” having each reciprocally positively chosen each other. The centrality of D and F to the group dynamics is more obvious in seeing the positives and negatives separately, illustrating that energy of the group is demanded regardless of choice valence—both D and F have significant impacts.
The criterion implemented dyadically manifests practical difficulties. Who would be paired with D; who would be stuck with F? If C and E were paired, satisfying their desires, what then of D’s desires? The optimal implementation satisfies the most choices of either valence. The process makes manifest exactly the dynamics experienced in all group situations (as anyone planning a wedding reception can attest). Knowing the reasons behind the choices and their strength (expanded schema) can help with optimal assignment. Some rationales indicate that “violating” a choice is not as detrimental as assumed (e.g., A and G reciprocally reject because they do not know each other).
With the particular criterion used (and its converse, “To whom would you like to give feedback?”), the implementation and rationale-sharing fit well together (i.e., sharing the rationales is giving feedback). With different criteria the sociometry will change, perhaps not greatly. For example, “To whom would you like to speak?” or “Whom would you like to know better?” could change the valence of the A-G choices and also demonstrates the difference between “actionable” criteria and “near” sociometry ones (e.g., “Whom in the group don’t you know well?”). Choice of criteria influences the sociometry, revealing each individual’s worth if done skillfully.
Lest sociometry be thought to be only small-group focused, Moreno’s work with the U.S. Navy in forming more efficient and safer squads (Moreno 1951) and with the Hudson School for Girls, where cottages were formed and run sociometrically (Moreno  1993) were both large-scale sociometry interventions.
Sociometry as an assessment and intervention is a powerful tool. Sociometry the theory offers principles to predict and guide. More comprehensive and powerful, sociometry the system applies synergistically to the multiple foci and levels of human relatedness addressed by the interconnected subtheories.
SEE ALSO Choice in Psychology; Groups; Networks; Prediction; Sociology
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