What is the Difference Between Psychology and Sociology?

Many students considering a major in the social sciences question what the main differences are between psychology and sociology because they seem so similar. In some ways, these two fields go hand in hand for uncovering the scientific truth about humans. Both have the overall objective of helping people better understand the complex dynamics of mental processes, emotions, behaviors, and social relationships. However, there are several unique nuances to each of these human-focused fields that should be noted. Below we’ll take an in-depth look at the significant differences that separate psychology from sociology in the social science arena.

All About Psychology

The distinguishing feature of psychology is that it involves the study of the human mind in regards to the individual or small group rather than society as a whole. Psychology usually focuses on studying one person at a time to craft general principles that can be applied towards understanding mental health trends, human behaviors, or societal problems. Psychologists are concerned with conducting research on specific cognitive processes, such as stress, grief, anger, depression, intelligence, and love. Most studies in psychology involve evaluating each person’s brain functions without necessarily considering the impact on other people. Psychologists seek to discover the reasoning behind emotional reactions in order to piece together sections of larger psychological puzzles for boosting individual well-being.

Sociology Defined

On the other hand, sociology looks beyond individual beings to examine society as a whole through specific social associations. Sociologists focus on learning about societal behavior by understanding how gender, ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic status, and appearance can play a prominent role in overall culture. Sociology seeks to bring social problems like economic injustice, marriage inequality, social stratification, hate crimes, alcohol addiction, obesity, environmental racism, and healthcare disparity to the public eye. Instead of dwelling on individual human thought, sociology inherently deals with how people relate with one another and behave towards others. Sociologists observe certain populations, research current issues, and evaluate how the problems will affect the wellness of society.

Choosing the Right Career Fit

Though these fields overlap in their studies about human behavior, they are very different in their foci and attract different types of professionals. If you’re interested in researching the ways societies develop and organize at the macro level, then earning a degree in sociology could be the best choice. If you want to specialize in helping individuals on a micro level by studying specific mental and behavioral reactions, then psychology could be the better educational path. For students unsure, it’s often advised that you take a course in social psychology, which is quite similar to sociology in studying how society affects the thoughts of individual people.

Ultimately, there are numerous ways that sociology and psychology relate to and enhance each other to help us understand why humans behave and interact as they do. Earning an undergraduate degree in either of these social sciences will prepare you with a variety of interpersonal skills that can be transferred to careers in human services, social work, research, healthcare, and business. Psychology and sociology simply take two different approaches to figuring out what makes human beings tick, so majoring in either one could be perfect for anyone passionate about working with others.