Assessing homogeneity in pair formation : similarity and social ties in the choice of an aikido partner
In situations where it is compulsory to choose a partner from among a limited number of individuals but where selection is not rule-guided, the first question that arises is whether the pairs formed can be thought of as due to « chance » or involved implicit constraints which sociologists’ then need to specify. Do people have a tendency to form homogeneous pairs or mixed ones ? The second hypothesis bears on the types of social logic operative in selection : do choices merely reflect a quest for shared identity or do they depend first and foremost on relational and structural constraints ? This problem is part of the more general one of how to measure homogeneity in social relations. To assess homogeneity in a complete set of pairs, it can be worthwhile to move from an approach in terms of disparities (the chi-square measurement, for example) to one in terms of configurations and matching. These measurement methods were applied to observations of an aikido class. In the non-competitive Japanese martial art of aikido, participants form pairs and they change partners regularly. Practitioners of the sport may be characterized on the basis of various criteria : sex, level of skill, age, prior aikido partners, etc. The article concludes with some ideas on the logic of pair formation within the framework of this sport.