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What Are the Differences between Psychology and Sociology?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 23, 2024
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There are numerous differences between psychology and sociology, though they do have some aspects in common. In general, psychology is the study of human thought and consciousness, from a number of different perspectives and including everything from the biological way in which cognitive processes occur to why people and animals behave in certain ways. Sociology, on the other hand, is the study of society and how people interact with each other in different ways. Though both fields can be used together to expand upon the ideas of each discipline, they are often studied separately.

The major differences between psychology and sociology typically regard the focal points of each field and how those foci are studied. In psychology, for example, the focus of research typically involves understanding the human cognitive process and how the brain functions in general. Within this overall field of research, there are a number of specialized fields of study, usually intended as a way to better explore and understand how the brain functions. Though there are some ways in which psychology and sociology overlap, much of the work done in psychology involves individuals and how each person’s brain functions without necessarily considering the impact that others may have on human consciousness.

In sociology, on the other hand, there is a great deal of importance placed on the role that society has in the formation of human thought and action. Sociology inherently deals with society and how people interact, and though this can include how people think with relation to each other, human thought is not necessarily the sole focus. Actions can be much more important in sociology than in psychology, since the interactions between people are often studied, and the importance of human behavior is commonly stressed over cognitive responses or processes.

There are some ways in which both psychology and sociology are similar, however, such as the ways in which the fields cross into each other. Social psychology, for example, is quite similar to sociology in that it focuses on how people interact and how society affects the thoughts and mental activities of individual people. Explorations within sociology on how social interactions can be based on various psychological principles can also connect the two disciplines. Ultimately, someone interested in different facets of psychology and sociology is likely to study both fields and find that there are numerous ways in which they can relate and enhance each other.

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Discussion Comments
By clintflint — On Jan 27, 2013

What I really find interesting is when these two subjects are put together in order to study humanity. For example, the results from experiments in psychology are combined with information from sociologists about the habits of particular cultures and compared.

I do want to point out that modern sociology is very mathematically rigorous. It's anthropology which tends towards a bit more guesswork and extrapolation. Modern sociology is mainly concerned with statistical analysis of populations.

By pastanaga — On Jan 27, 2013

@MrsPramm - I have lots of friends who majored in sociology and none of them had any more trouble getting a job than people who majored in psychology. If anything, psychology majors tend to have a set idea of what they want to do and that narrows the field a little bit.

Sociology majors can find work in many fields. They most likely aren't going to be working as an actual sociologist, but my friends are doing things like working in advertising, working in publishing, working in the public sector and so forth.

By MrsPramm — On Jan 26, 2013

If you are looking at taking these two subjects at college, one thing that's pretty useful to know is that psychology involves a lot more math than sociology, as it is considered to be a "harder" science.

This also means that taking psychology will open up more job opportunities to you, particularly those in the sciences, since with many psych papers you'll be working on experiments and dealing with statistics.

Sociology tends to be based more around observation and extrapolation than on experimental data, although both subjects contain both ways of doing things and of course, statistics are used in sociology as well.

I guess I just think if the choice is between psychology vs sociology, psychology is a more practical paper to take.

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