While the social atom depicts the attractions and repulsions of individuals within one person’s life, the sociogram depicts the interpersonal dynamics within a specific group. The sociogram was one of the first instruments of sociometry to be developed through his work in Mittendorf refugee camp around 1915. He later created sociograms depicting the interpersonal relationships within various groups including prison blocks in Sing Sing Prison, students in classrooms, actors on the stage, military divisions, and organizations. Some argued that with the invention of the sociogram, the first scientific basis for group psychotherapy was born (Renouvier, 1958). Individual psychotherapy techniques are not adequately translatable into group psychotherapy—“a group structure which is more than the sum of the individuals participating in it” (Moreno, 1948, p. 123).
The sociogram made it possible to scientifically assess the sociodynamics within a group in order to appropriately prescribe interventions for better functioning. The functioning of a group, just like an organism or organization is strongly influenced by its structure. “The core of a social structure is the pattern of relationships of all the individuals within the structure” (Moreno, 1941, p. 19). A sociogram is constructed through the data collected by a sociometric test. A sociometric test measures two-way relations based upon a specific criteria. A simple example of a sociometric test is depicted through the teaching of a psychodrama elective at Bryn Mawr College’s Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research. As the instructor, I asked each student to email me the names, in order of preference, of the three classmates that they would most prefer to co-facilitate a class warm-up with later in the semester. Upon receiving the data of this sociometric test, I input it into an online computer system that draws the sociogram for me based on the distribution of choices, the attractions and repulsions, within the classroom based on this criteria (see Fig. 5.3).
The resulting sociogram visually shows the choices and preferences of each student. In analyzing the sociogram, we can see that student 11 is the star of the group based on these criteria as they were chosen by five of their peers, more than anyone else. Students 2, 10, and 8 were each chosen four times. Two students (1 and 12) were chosen by three of their peers; four students (3, 4, 5, 7, and 9) were chosen by two classmates; and student 6 was chosen once. Previously, sociograms were drawn by hand, but modern technology has given way to multiple computer programs that can quickly create a sociogram image.
Sociograms can be created for small groups or large groups and give us significant information about the invisible dynamics within the group and between group members. Moreno suggested that the number of mutual choice
s within a group sociogram is an indicator of its health (Hale, 2009). The organizations of the group, communities, organizations, and agencies could be restructured based on sociometric analysis to determine the best fit for individual members—this was Moreno’s original recommendation based on his Mittendorf experience. Through the use of sociograms for sociometric research, it became clear that the social wealth within groups is unequally distributed—there are social stars and social isolates within each group which reflects the structure of society-as-a-whole.
5.5.1 Sociodynamic Effect
The unequal distribution of preferences within a group is a result of the sociodynamic effect which “underlies the development of leadership and isolation” in groups and society (Moreno, 1943, p. 305). Moreno suggested that the sociodynamic effect was the underlying dynamic responsible for every social problem known to humans. The sociodynamic effect “is universally present, appearing like a halo effect, inherent in every social structure” (1941, p. 126).
It was through his systematic study at the Hudson girls reform school that he became more fully aware of this underlying social force. He conducted a sociometric test during which the 505 residents were asked to write down their top five choices of other girls that they would like to live with. It was expected that the distribution of choices would create a normal probability curve where most participants would receive an average amount of choices, few participants would receive above the average, and few participants would receive below the average number of choices. Instead what was found, and replicated in nearly every sociometric test since, was that a handful of girls received many of the choices, the largest number were unchosen or severely under-chosen, and the rest received an average number of choices. The sociodynamic effect is clearly depicted in the sociogram graphic above where a few of the graduate students received an overwhelming majority of choices by the group while others were less chosen.
Social workers are tasked with promoting and developing a more inclusive society where the vulnerable and oppressed are not isolated or unchosen. The creation of a socially just society must take into account the sociodynamic effect and its pervasive impact upon society and groups within society. Many have suggested that the sociometrist and group worker’s role responsibilities include reversing the sociodynamic effect (Giacomucci, 2017; Giacomucci et al., 2018; Korshak & Shapiro, 2013; Moreno, 1934; Schreiber, 2018). While a case worker orients around reversing the sociodynamic effect’s impact on their client, a social group worker is concerned with reversing the sociodynamic effect in their group, and a macrosocial worker is primarily focused on reversing the sociodynamic effect within society.
This underlying social dynamic which impacts the distribution of social choices leaves many unchosen while others are sociometric stars, is called the sociodynamic effect (Hale, 1981; Moreno, 1934). At the same time, he noticed significantly more mutual choices within his groups than expected. “The trend towards mutuality of attraction and repulsion many times surpasses chance possibility. The factor responsible for this effect is called ‘tele’” (Moreno, 1941, p. 24).
“We could observe that some individuals have for each other a certain sensitivity as if they were chained together by a common soul. When they warm-up to a state, they ‘click’” (J.L. Moreno, 1924, p. 57). This quote from J.L. Moreno
’s Das Stegreiftheater (Theater of Spontaneity) describes the concept of tele nearly a decade before later naming the term through his sociometric research. The term tele is derived from the Greek word meaning “far” or “at a distance” (Moreno, 1934). J.L. Moreno states that “every wholesome human relationship depends on the presence of tele”; he defines tele as “insight into,” “appreciation of,” and “feeling for” the “actual make up” of the other person. (1959, p. 37). It is “the socio-gravitational factor, which operates between individuals, drawing them to form more positive or negative pair-relations…than on chance” (J.L. Moreno, 1947, p. 84). Tele may be conceptualized as two-way empathy (J.L. Moreno, 1953). The progress of therapy and the development of any group depend on tele as a foundation to its advancement (Moreno, 2000). “Tele conveys the message that people are participants in an interpersonal phenomena whereby they contact and communicate and resonate with one another at a distance and that they send emotional messages projected across space” (Kellermann, 1992, as cited in Dayton, 2005, p. 53). Dayton (2005) suggests that the tele phenomenon operates through what neuroscientists describe as “affectively charged, facially mediated right brain-to-brain communications, at levels beneath awareness” (Lazarus and McCleary, 1951). Similarly, Yaniv (2014) presents a neuropsychology conceptualization of tele as being related to the orbitofrontal cortex’s function of tracking emotional valence.
Tele is not transference or countertransference (J.L. Moreno attempted to dismantle the “patient–therapist” power dynamic by referring to countertransference as transference). Transference is a one-way process—a distortion of tele, but tele is a two-way accurate knowing of one another. Both transference and tele are often present in relationships, and the goal over time is to replace transference with tele (J.L. Moreno, 1959). “By definition, transference tends to produce dissociation of interpersonal relations. In contrast, tele strengthens association and promotes continuity, security, stability, reciprocity, and cohesiveness of groups” (Moreno, 1983, p. 164). J.L. Moreno distinguishes tele from transference in the following passage:
Transference, like tele, has a cognitive as well as a conative aspect. It takes tele to choose the right therapist and group partner; it takes transference to misjudge the therapist to choose group partners who produce unstable relationships in a given activity. (1959, p. 12).
He argued that transference is a fantasy (surplus reality) based on the past experience, while tele is based on feelings into the actuality of another. Transference is based on one’s inner psychodynamic experience; tele describes the sociodynamics between two individuals (1959).
The presence of tele within psychodrama groups is often highlighted when a protagonist chooses another group member (often not knowing their history) to play a specific role—only later to find out that the role directly coincided with that group member’s personal work (Nolte, 2014). Tele is at the basis of an individual’s ability to fully role reverse with another person (von Ameln & Becker-Ebel, 2020). Tele exists within all groups, and all sociometric, psychodramatic, and group psychotherapy sessions. It is most evident in group sociometry through the development of reciprocal choices or when one’s perception toward another matches that person’s experience of self (Hale, 1981).