Both Psychology and Sociology are two sciences devoted to the study of human beings. But the main difference is what is the target variable of each. In reference to Psychology, the variable with more importance and relevance in its research is the person as an individual object. On the other hand, Sociology will have society, the collective of people as a whole, as its main factor of analysis..
In addition to the above differences, there are also other relevant differences to mention, related to methodology, areas or branches that form them, professional opportunities and main representatives and known figures in each one. In this article, we will point out the most important divergences and try to make clearer in which aspects Psychology differs from Sociology.
What is the difference between Psychology and Sociology?
It is known that there must be differences between Psychology and Sociology, since you can study or train in one or the other discipline separately, depending on the interests, objectives, variables of study or work to which you want to dedicate yourself. In the following, we will describe and see in more depth what these differences are and what makes these two sciences different.
When we look at the definition and etymology of each term, we realize that one of the differences between Psychology and Sociology is reflected in the distinction of the study approach they propose.
The word Psychology is formed by the terms “Psycho” which refers to mind or soul and -logia which derives from the Greek word “lógos” which means study or science. Therefore, if we consider the root and the suffix that form the word “psychology”, we can say that this is the word “psychology”. Psychology, we can say that this is the science or study of the mind or soul..
That is to say, it is the discipline in charge of studying, investigating, understanding human behavior, both its external and internal expression and the relationship that occurs between these two. Its function can be applied in different fields such as clinical, educational or labor, dealing with both healthy subjects and subjects with psychopathologies.
The term Sociology is constituted by the lexeme “Socio” which translates as partner or companion, and the morpheme -logia or logos which, as we have already pointed out, refers to study or science. Thus, we will say that Sociology is the science or the study of society, of the collective. It is a social science, focused mainly on the study of the interactions that occur in society.
2. Variables studied
If we take into account the definition of each concept presented in the previous section, we can already get an idea of what each science will focus its study on. In reference to Psychology, focused, as we have already pointed out, on the study of the mindThe main variable to be analyzed and studied will be the individual, the person as a whole, his mental processes, personalities, emotions, behaviors, as well as the possible alterations that the subject may present.
But despite being focused on knowing the person as an individual subject, this person lives in a society, which affects and influences the behavior of the individual, thus also opening the study to the interaction of the subjects among themselves and with the context, external variables that affect and can produce changes to the internal variables of the human being.
Sociology, on the other hand, has focused on the study, specifically, of society, of people as a group that share an environment and relate to each other. In this way, the variables to be analyzed will be the family, groups of friends, work group… A group of people who interact with each other to a greater or lesser extent, forming closer and more intimate relationships or, on the contrary, less intense ones.
The study on a smaller scale will be carried out from the perspective of microsociology, which concentrates on daily interactions and the minimum units that can be found in society. Macro-sociology, on the other hand, will analyze the structure of society, focusing on specific events that affect a larger number of people, such as wars, catastrophes or poverty.
Although both sciences use qualitative methods, focused on non-numerical data, and quantitative methods, referred to the analysis of numerical results. We can point out that one of the most used research techniques in psychology is the experimental one, which directs its study to know the causes of behavior, that is, to the direct relationship between one variable and another, as the variation in one of them means the modification of the other. This is the method that presents the highest degree of control and the only one that allows us to speak of causality.
On the other hand, Sociology will not focus on the study of causality, but will make use of the correlational method.This allows us to speak of a relationship between variables, but not to state which is the cause and which is the consequence, which is the direction of the effect or which is the independent variable and which is the dependent variable.
4. Social Psychology VS Sociology
Within the science of psychology, the branch or type of psychology that can generate the most confusion and that has the most similarities with sociology is social psychology. As the name indicates, Social Psychology is the specialty of psychology that focuses its research on the person as a social subject, i.e., the influence produced by the person as a social subject.that is to say, the influence that society and the group have on a specific individual.
The subject of study will be an individual and it will be observed and analyzed how living in society and relating to other people affects different variables such as behaviors, cognitions or emotions. Most of the groups examined will be small, of smaller size, since they are the ones that end up having a greater influence on the individual.
Sociology, on the other hand, Sociology, which studies society as a whole, will use the analysis of larger groups, seeking to make them representative of society as a whole.groups, seeking to make them representative of society. It does not focus on individual subjects, but at least uses as variables of analysis the groups and groups of people mostly of large size.
In other words, and in summary, Social Psychology focuses on the individual, observing how society influences and produces changes in the individual. Sociology, on the other hand, studies society as a whole, the changes, thoughts, behaviors, and variations that people have as a collective.
5. Areas of work
Given the differences in the functions of each science, the professional opportunities that each will have will also be different.. We will now present the main areas in which you can specialize in both Psychology and Sociology and thus be able to dedicate yourself professionally:
Psychology has different areas of application, where the subject can be trained and specialize in order to work: Clinical Psychology, focused mainly on the study and treatment of individuals with psychopathologies; Organizational Psychology, with interest in the workplace, as it influences the behavior of people; Educational Psychology, as the study of learning; Developmental Psychology, research on the development of the individual; Social Psychology, analyzes the way in which society, other people, affect the individual; Neuropsychology, gives importance to the knowledge of the brain. The psychologist will be able to work in different fields such as schools, health centers or organizations. As a psychotherapist or as a researcher.
In the area of Sociology the main job opportunities are: social intervention, focused mainly on social awareness, carried out from NGOs, public administration or different foundations; social research, doing, for example, the work of consultant, consumer technician or advertising and marketing communication, as well as many others; education, here sociologists direct their work to evaluate knowledge and recognize skills and attitudes; work organization, to design, evaluate and manage the structures of organizations; and politics, focused on public policy.
7. Main representatives
Given the different schools that constitute Psychology, it will have different representatives, some of the best known are: Wilhelm Wundt, who based his studies on Experimental Psychology; Sigmund Freud, the father of Psychoanalysis; John Watson, founder of Behaviorism; Aaron Beck, representative of Cognitive Psychology and the study of depression; Frederic Skinner, known for operant conditioning and Martin Seligman, an important figure in Positive Psychology.
In the history of Sociology, important figures who made contributions in it were: Émelie Durkheim, known as one of the founding fathers of Sociology, together with K. Marx and M. Weber, established this science as an academic discipline; Karl Marx, a leading figure for communist and socialist ideals; Max Weber, founder of the modern study of sociology; and Henri de Saint-Simon, considered the forerunner of socialism.