If you’re someone who finds themselves keenly fascinated by the world around them, there are chances that you’ve wondered about why certain people behave the way they do. Why are some people so sensitive when it comes to how other people perceive them, while others are very touchy about jokes. Similarly, you would also have considered how people behave in groups.
For instance, why does somebody laugh at a joke privately but feel the need to mention that it’s offensive when they’re in public – or vice versa. If these are questions you’ve concerned, or if you’ve thought about why things happen in this vein instead of taking other directions, then you’re in the right direction for pursuing a career in either psychology or sociology!
Since there tends to be a significant degree of overlap between the two fields, students who are considering either of these fields as a career are often confused about which one to pursue. But no worries – that’s why we’re writing this article so that you don’t have to worry about which field is right for you! Just read through this article and you’ll be good to go.
Differences Between Psychology and Sociology
1. Sociology is Concerned with Group Dynamics, Psychology is Concerned with Personal Interactions
Sociology looks at society as a whole, while psychology looks at individual beliefs and patterns of relating. Isn’t there a lot of overlap between the two, you ask? Well, yes, there is – but the two fields approach the question of understanding behaviour very differently indeed. Sociologists conduct research into phenomena that affect large groups, such as religion, marriage, advertising, or capitalism, for example.
On the other hand, psychologists look at personal relationships with these institutions; so a psychologist will study, for example, how 5 different people relate to a religion, or how they’ve understood marriage, or what they think about advertising or capitalism, and so on.
2. Sociology Looks at Systems that Govern People, Psychology looks at the Way People Govern Themselves
Sociology looks at large structures, so everything within the ambit of politics and governance comes under its purview. This does not make sociology an inherently political subject; rather, if taught and studied well, sociology looks at the way societies choose to govern themselves (if we’re discussing a democracy), and how this can impact several groups within.
The issue of racism or casteism, for instance, can be studied by sociologists. Psychology, however, can only reach into the individual psyches of people as they are moulded through their own thoughts as well as those that these people have received from the world around them. In so doing, psychology perhaps has less claim to truths that can be considered to be “universal”.
Moreover, psychology too is not an inherently political tool, however, it can be used to understand different kinds of politics. For example, dictators can be understood to have control issues, while those who implicitly trust their immediate environment can be understood as people who have had reliable and stable backgrounds as youths. These are only indicative directions, and don’t provide reliable information in the sense of proper study – they’re only meant to showcase the possibilities of the subject.
3. Sociology is About Understanding Trends at the Macro Level, While Psychology is About Understanding How Macro-Level Trends Can Playout on the Micro-Scale.
Given that sociology is concerned with data at a macro level for the purposes of macro analysis, while psychology looks at data (both micro and macro) for micro-level analysis, there are some very interesting overlaps, particularly in this area. We can take historical examples in this particular regard.
Sociology developed as a way to make sure that people could be as happy as possible, at a time when no proper understanding of the human existed. Psychology, however, developed almost by proxy, since the first psychological experiments were performed on animals, who couldn’t have given their consent.
In both cases, there was data, but both fields interpreted that data very differently. Similarly, there are sociological data about how bitcoin has changed the field of investments completely – and how that has changed investor profiles all over the world.
And there are psychological data about how newer technologies and systems of communications have changed how individuals relate to each other in a very major way; for instance, back when people had to write letters, they had to be more patient than they have to be today when they can just see who has read their messages.
These are some of the basic differences between the two fields. But even as they may seem to be huge, we also need to keep in mind that these are very similar fields as well.
They’re Different – But Similar Too!
While we’ve spent so much time looking at the differences, it’s important to mention their similarities – since a lot of students who pursue either psychology or sociology usually end up doing research that somehow straddles both fields.
Every example mentioned in this article can be either sociology or a psychology paper – only the insights will change, along with the research methodology. Ultimately, as long as a field motivates you, you should pursue it – you can always work out the minutiae as you go along!
So if you’re interested in either psychology or sociology, you should keep in mind the differences and similarities mentioned above. At the end of the day, your work should make you feel like you’re creating a difference in the world. And if you choose a field you’re passionate about, it’s bound to happen! So all the best for your journey – just make sure you take the first steps.