Is Psychology a Social Science? Top 5 Psychology books to Read

Spread the love

This article is written with the view of answering the most confusing question about Psychology i.e. is psychology a social science? However, let’s first learn the basics and importance of Psychology and jump towards answering “is psychology a social science?”, learning the goals of psychology and knowing the top 5 Psychology books to read.


This article will help you learn:

  • Importance of Psychology
  • Origin of Psychology
  • Is psychology a social science?
  • Goals of Psychology
  • Sub-fields of Psychology
  • Modern Psychology career
  • Top 5 Psychology books to read

Psychology helps us study the mind and behavior of people and help them do better in their lives. Psychology isn’t something that is only studied in classrooms, but is All Around You. It is a lot more than mental health!

We all are using the principles of Psychology every day in our lives without even realizing it. The websites you visit on a daily basis use Psychology to learn how users read, use and interpret online information, and what grabs the users’ attention. When you scold your child when he makes a mistake, you are using the learning principle of punishment. Whether you are willing to quit smoking, losing weight or changing your routine, you are utilizing Psychology to motivate yourself. 

Importance of Psychology

44% of Americans report about knowing a little or nothing about mental problems.

As we know that Psychology is the study of mind and behavior, it helps to understand why people act the way they do. The main goal of a psychologist is to improve the decision making power, stress management and behavior of people based on understanding their past to better predict their future behavior. This can help people live a successful life with better relationships, more self-confidence and better overall communication. 

Furthermore, psychologists know why people act strangely and many of them deal with mental disorders and their treatment. However, Psychology not only helps to make others’ lives better, but also has a great influence on your own life.

According to a research, 1 out of every 5 people are suffering from diagnosable mental diseases in America. This means only a few families are unaffected by mental disorders. 

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Origin of Psychology

Psychology has existed since the ancient civilization of Egypt and Greece, as a branch of Philosophy, but was emerged as a separate subject by the mid of 1800. Wilhelm Wundt was a German physiologist, who used scientific research methods to investigate reaction times. His book “Principles of Physiological Psychology” was published in 1874, which focused on many major connections between the science of physiology and the study of human thought and behavior. He later established the world’s first psychology lab in 1879 at the University of Leipzig. This event is marked as the origin of Psychology as a separate and distinct scientific discipline. 

 Wilhelm Wundt Image
Image of Wilhelm Wundt taken from Wikipedia Creative commons

With this brief introduction and the history of psychology, I hope all your basics about the term “Psychology” would have been cleared. Now its time to answer the question “is psychology a social science?”.

Is Psychology a social science?

Answering the question is psychology a social science can be a bit difficult, however let’s first analyze what is science.

Defining science is surprisingly difficult because, there’s no standard definition that everyone agrees on. But most of you would probably agree with this: science is systematically observing natural events, then using those observations to develop laws and principles. Then those principles are tested through scientific method: observation, hypothesis, experimentation, analysis, and conclusion.

In Science, theories should be proposed and tested to see if they can be disproven. The most powerful theories are the ones that can be falsified, and not those that explain everything. Since modern Psychology has a number of theories and some of them quickly get disproven. Therefore, Psychology is a science. Now let’s answer the question: is psychology a social science?

Things get a bit more difficult when we differentiate between is psychology a social science or natural science. The question is psychology a social science can be answered in two ways. Let’s look for its answer.

Is Psychology a social science? Yes, Psychology is a social science, because it is not an exact, rule-based science. For instance, when you add 1 in 5, you’ll get 6 no matter what. But, if a person has a fear of public speaking, well there could be multiple causes why that happens to be. And every time you encounter a person with the fear of public speaking, you will not get the exact similar problem with the exact similar solution. 

Is psychology a social science can be answered in another way, i.e., Psychology studies human behavior in their socio-cultural context. It focuses on humans as social beings and improving their social relationships and mental health. However, it helps in:

  • Maintaining our personality
  • Having a positive approach in life
  • Having a successful career
  • Maintaining our relationships and social circle
  • Maintaining our peace of mind
  • Polishing our behavior
  • Improving and helping others

I hope this answer to “is psychology a social science?” has cleared all your confusions.

Goals of Psychology

After answering the question: is psychology a social science, here the four major goals of Psychology are mentioned that every psychologist tries to accomplish. The goals of Psychology aren’t hard to accomplish once you get command on your field. These goals of Psychology are used to solve real-world problems. The four major goals of Psychology are mentioned below:

  • Describe
  • Explain
  • Predict
  • Change

Describing the behavior

The first out of four major goals of Psychology is to describe the behavior of people. This approach helps in understanding the person’s condition better and to gain a perspective on what is normal and abnormal. To get an understanding of the condition, one must observe the behavior first. By understanding the problems, psychologists would learn more about why this happens and how to solve it. 

For instance, consider a psychologist solving the problem of a child facing difficulty in studies. He would first describe the problem the child is facing. The child might be unable to achieve good grades. By knowing the actual cause, the psychologist would be able to understand and solve the problem better.  

Explaining the behavior

Psychologists are more interested in explaining the behavior, rather than describing them. Once you understand the problem, you can easily explain it. Explaining a behavior involves answering the following questions:

  • Why do people act the way they do?
  • What factors affect development, personality, social behavior and mental issues? 

Consider the above-mentioned example, the child might be unable to pay attention, there might be personal issues, he might not be interested in his field, or he might be weak in memorizing, etc that’s why he’s not getting good grades. 

Predicting the behavior

Another important goal, out of the four major goals of Psychology is to predict the future behavior of an individual by looking at the past observed behavior (describing and explaining). Predicting the behavior requires answering the following questions:

  • Will he be repeating the same behavior again?
  • Will he not be repeating this behavior in the future?
  • Why will he repeat this behavior? 

Consider the above-mentioned example again. Let’s suppose that the child is having family problems and isn’t able to focus on studies. The psychologist would recommend not engaging the child in family problems again or else it’ll affect his grades in the future too.  

Changing the behavior

Finally, the fourth and the last out of the major goals of Psychology is to change, influence and control the behavior. Psychologists strive to improve the lives of people thereby, changing their behavior.   

In the previous example, the psychologist would suggest some therapies that would make the child emotionally strong, so he would be able to handle things better without affecting his grades and the future life. 

Subfields of Psychology

After knowing the goals of psychology, one must know the sub-branches of Psychology. Psychology is a vast field and is divided into many sub-fields. Every problem has its own expert to deal with. Sub-branches of Psychology are as under:

  • Clinical Psychologists: Clinical Psychologists deals with treating mental, behavioral and emotional disorders. They solve short-term crises such as depression, phobias, as well as severe conditions such as schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease, etc.
  • Cognitive and perceptual Psychologists: These psychologists are concerned with studying people’s thinking, perception and memory. They also study judgment, reasoning and decision making. 
  • Sports Psychologists: These psychologists work with athletes to help them overcome anxiety, fear of failure, and issues of motivation and focus.
  • Social Psychologists: Social psychologists study how people interact with others and how their social environment affects them. 
  • Counseling Psychologists: Counseling psychologists help people know their worth, strengths and resources, and deal with their problems. 
  • Developmental Psychologists: They are concerned with the psychological development of people of all ages. Until recently, their focus was on children but now they are more interested in aging and making ways to help elderly people become as independent as possible. 
  • Experimental Psychologists: These psychologists collect data on how humans and animals respond to their surroundings through research that includes manipulating variables in the laboratory. 
  • Educational psychologists: They are concerned with studying how students learn and how they should be taught. 
  • Health Psychologists: Health psychologists assess how various factors affect health and illness, and effective ways to change habits or control pain. These psychologists study how individuals deal with illness, why do they don’t follow medical advice, etc.
  • Industrial/Organizational Psychologists: These psychologists apply psychological strategies at the workplace to improve work-life. Some of them help organizations with staffing, training and employee development. And others work as management consultants for planning, quality management and dealing with industrial change.
  • Neuro-psychologists: They inspect the relation between brain systems and behavior. For example, they may study the making and storage of memories in the brain, or how injuries and diseases affect the emotions, perceptions and behavior of people.
  • Forensic Psychologists: These psychologists study the relationship between psychology and legal questions. This requires a proper understanding of legal principles.

Modern Psychology Career

Psychologists strive to improve the lives of people, so there are numerous places where psychologists work. However, this career could be entirely research-based and non-public facing, or more closely with people. It all depends on you, which sub-field you are more comfortable with. Here is a list of places where Psychologists work. Although, there are many more places than the ones discussed below. Most psychologists try to accomplish the goals of Psychology at these places:

  • Professors: According to the American Psychological Association, almost a quarter of Psychology Ph.D. students join a four-year college or a university for work. When they are not in the classroom, they spend most of their time researching their specialties and are at the forefront of new discoveries made in the field by attending conferences.
  • Working at Hospitals: Psychologists can also work in hospitals or clinics to help people overcome or treat their psychological problems such as depression, trauma, stress, phobia, etc.
  • Government Agencies: Government agencies hire a number of Psychologists to help them create tests and training courses. Correctional counselors, military psychologists, criminal profilers and veteran counselors are some of the government Psychological jobs.
  • Working in Schools: A number of psychologists work in schools to use their knowledge and expertise to help students who are struggling with any sort of emotional, behavioral or learning difficulties and help them meet their goals of life. These experts may work in primary or secondary schools, or even in colleges.
  • Business: Industrial/Organizational psychologists are concerned with monitoring methods to increase productivity such as better employee selection, training staff, or designing and organizing the workplace.

After having all the basics cleared, answering “is psychology a social science?”, learning the goals of psychology, knowing the Modern psychology career, here are the top 5 psychology books that’ll help you have an interesting start of this field.

Top 5 Psychology books to read

Every person out there is curious and interested to know about how the human mind works and interprets things. Finding the best Psychology books to start can be a bit challenging because it’s a field that should be understood completely, since there’s a lot going on in a human mind.

List of Top 5 Psychology books to read

In order to help you select the best Psychology book to start, I recommend you these top 5 psychology books to read. No matter if you are a beginner or gathering knowledge just for your interest, here is the list of top 5 Psychology books that’ll help you make the best start:

  • Psychology (12th edition) by David G. Myers & C. Nathan DeWall. 
  • Abnormal Psychology by Ronald J. Comer & Jonathan S. Comer
  • Introducing Psychology by Paul H. Ciccarelli 
  • Psychology (5th edition) by Saundra K. Ciccarelli & J. Noland White
  • Psychology: A Concise Introduction (3rd edition) by Richard Griggs’

1. Psychology (12th edition) By David G. Myers & C. Nathan Dewall

The very first book I recommend out of the top 5 psychology books is “Psychology (12th edition)” by David G. Myers & C. Nathan Dewall. You are not going to get much better than this, when it comes to a whole chunk of information on Psychology. This book covers all the aspects that should be learned for being successful in this field. Moreover, it contains a mixture of text and media, which helps the reader understand and learn easier ways. This book gives you self-tests, tutorials and a whole lot more. The content is nicely and easily structured and each topic contains a great, useful information.

The reasoning of mentioning it first out of the top 5 psychology books is that, it is fact-based and interesting to read. 

2. Abnormal Psychology by Ronald J. Comer & Jonathan S. Comer

Another interesting book, out of the top 5 psychology books, that grabs the interest of many is “Abnormal Psychology” by Ronald J. Comer & Jonathan S. Comer. This book best explains the theories, studies, and mental disorders, as well as their treatments. Moreover, it includes modern references, photographs, tables and figures and much more information on current theories and issues. The information provided in this book is interesting and easy to read, instead of dry and fact-based. In this book, respected therapist Ronald Comer not only discusses diagnosis and treatments, but also how different cultural perspectives come into play.

3. Introducing Psychology by Ronald J. Comer & Jonathan S.

Are you willing to get a well-detailed Psychology book, but aren’t ready to pay a fortune for it? If yes, then you are in the right place! Because “Introducing Psychology” by Ronald J. Comer & Jonathan S. Comer contains in-depth information on this field and is budget-friendly out of all the top 5 psychology books mentioned here. Moreover, this book provides knowledge on topics like body language, persuasion and influencing people. These topics help you learn about yourself, as well as how to relate them to others too. Furthermore, it presents the history of Psychology and different psychological disorders. Also, it portrays how Psychology works in your everyday life and capitalizes your strengths and weaknesses.

4. Psychology (5th edition) by Saundra K. Ciccarelli & J. Noland White

“Psychology (5th edition)” by Saundra K. Ciccarelli & J. Noland White is another book recommended in the top 5 psychology books that works best for Psychology students and layman interested in this field. This book is available as a standard textbook and an eBook, so you can choose the most appropriate one for you. All the information provided in this book is according to the format of APA (American Psychological Association), undergraduate program and more. The online approach provides more information as well as homework, tutorials and assessments. These things can help you assess your abilities and better study the areas that require assistance. 

5. Psychology: A concise Introduction by Richard Griggs’

The last recommended book out of the top 5 psychology books is “Psychology: A Concise Introduction” by Richard Griggs’ is a budget-friendly book, yet gives proper, detailed information to the beginners and laypeople. Students gain an understanding of the ins and outs of the empirical scientific method, how to plan and implement research and how to understand the outcomes. It gives a brief introduction to the history of Psychology, and how far it has come today. The 4th edition is rigorously updated, particularly in neuroscience and in coverage of topics affected by the release of the new DSM-5. No other book provides such great information at an extremely low price. 

These top 5 psychology books can help you grab quality and easy to understand information in less time.

Before you Leave!

Psychology may seem vast and intimidating topic at first, but understanding a few basic facts can make it interesting and easy. It is an engaging yet important field in today’s world. Maintaining mind peace is difficult, with so much competition in our societies. However, Psychology helps you cope with different mental illnesses, minor and major ones. Everyone must have the basic knowledge of this field in order to maintain their mental health, improve everyday life, and well-being.

I hope this article would have helped you in learning the goals of psychology, answering the question “is psychology a social science?”, and having an idea of the top 5 psychology books for beginners.