Sociology vs Psychology: which is the best for you?

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It often becomes difficult to choose between sociology vs psychology majors, since both fields include the study of human behavior. However, this article will help you choose between Sociology vs psychology easily.

This article will help you in learning:

  • Origin of sociology
  • Important sociological perspectives
  • Basic sociological terms
  • Medical sociology
  • Dramaturgy Sociology
  • Sociology vs psychology
  • Sociology vs anthropology

History of sociology

People have had been thinking like sociologists long before sociology emerged as a separate discipline. Well-known names Plato and Aristotle, Confucius, Khaldun, and Voltaire set the stage for modern sociology.

People of ancient times were interested in the relationship between individuals and the societies they live in. Many topics we study today were also studied by ancient philosophers.

First social dynamics were recognized by a Chinese historian, Ma Tuan-Lin, in the thirteenth century. In his seminal encyclopedia, “General Study of Literary Remains”, he marked social dynamics as an underlying component of historical development. In the next century Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406) of Tunisia, worked for this field. He is considered to be the first sociologist of the world. Many topics of today’s interest were written by him, setting a foundation for both modern sociology and economics, together with the theory of social conflict, differentiating between nomadic and sedentary life, elucidating political economy, and a study joining a tribe’s social cohesion to its capacity for power.

General principles were developed by the Age of Enlightenment philosophers that could be used to describe social life, in the eighteenth century. Thinkers such as John Locke, Voltaire, Immanuel Kant, and Thomas Hobbes responded to the ills of the society by writing on the topics which they believed would lead to social reform. Women’s conditions in society were portrayed by Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797). The male academic structure usually ignored her work, but by the 1970s, she was widely considered as the first feminist thinker.

Great changes were seen in the early nineteenth century with the Industrial Revolution, enlarged mobility, and new kinds of employment. The great social and political upheaval could also be noticed with the rise of empires that exposed many people—for the first time—to societies and cultures other than their own. Millions of people moved to cities and many people turned away from their traditional religious beliefs.

The term sociology was first invented in 1780 by the French essayist Emmanuel-Joseph Sieyès (1748–1836) in an unpublished manuscript (Fauré et al. 1999).

Father of Sociology

The word “sociology” was reinvented in 1838 by the father of sociology. A French philosopher, Auguste Comte (1798–1857), is often referred to as the father of sociology. He used this word to define the scientific study of society.

Comte originally studied to be an engineer, but later became the student of Claude Henri de Rouvroy Comte de Saint-Simon (1760–1825), a social philosopher. They believed that society must also be studied using scientific methods like other natural sciences. The father of sociology also believed that sociologists could work for the betterment of the society. He suggested that once sociologists identified the laws that governed society, they could direct the ills of the society such as poor education and poverty. 

Comte named his theory of the scientific study of social patterns positivism. He wrote a series of books called The Course in Positive Philosophy (1830–1842) and A General View of Positivism (1848). He held that using scientific methods to disclose the laws by which societies and individuals interact would lead to a new “positivist” age of history. Comte was so impressed with his theory of positivism that he referred to it as “the great discovery of the year 1822”.

Important sociological perspectives

Here are the 4 important sociological perspectives that will help you learn how sociologists use paradigms to analyze the social world. A paradigm can be defined as a broad viewpoint, perspective, or lens that allows sociologists to have a wide range of tools to describe society, and then to construct hypotheses and theories.

The four important sociological perspectives are: 

  • Functionalism
  • The symbolic interactionist perspective
  • The conflict perspective
  • Feminism


The first out of the four important sociological perspectives is the functionalist perspective, also called functionalism. It suggests that every aspect of society is interdependent and must be balanced in order to make the society keep running. The social factors pointed in this perspective are: government, schools, families, and healthcare. All these factors are interdependent and keep our society working.

The government provides schools for families to make their children educated, which in turn pays the taxes and the state keeps running. That is, the family depends on the school to educate their children and get a good job to support their families and pay the taxes. In this way, the children become law-abiding, taxpaying citizens, who support the state. If the process goes well, the society produces order, stability, and productivity. If the process does not go well, the society then must alter to recapture a new order, stability, and productivity. 

Important figures that worked on this perspective are: Spencer, Émile Durkheim, and Robert Merton. 

The symbolic interactionist perspective

The second out of the four important sociological perspectives are the symbolic interactionist perspective. It is also known as symbolic interactionism. It suggests that social scientists consider the symbols and details of everyday life, what these symbols mean, and how people interact with each other. According to symbolic interactionism, people link meanings to symbols, and then they respond according to their subjective interpretation of these symbols. 

Charles Horton Cooley commenced the looking-glass self, in 1902, to explain how a person’s self of self grows out of interactions with others. He presented a trinal process for this development:

  1. We see how others respond to us.
  2. We interpret that response (typically as positive or negative).
  3. On those interpretations we make a sense of self-based.

“Looking-glass” is an anachronistic term for a mirror, so Cooley theorized that we “see” ourselves when we communicate with others.

Another important figure coined with this perspective is George Herbert Mead (1863–1931), considered the founder of the symbolic interactionist perspective. 

The conflict perspective

The third out of the four important sociological perspectives is the conflict perspective. This perspective defines society as a system of unequal groups, and therefore persistently generate conflict and change. This theory explains unfortunate social trends such as racism, sexism, homophobia, ageism, class struggles, and so on.

For instance, you might have noticed that in schools, the popular group of students is mostly mean and rude to the less popular kids. 

The functionalists focused on the positive aspect of society and how the society moves and runs together, whereas the conflict theorists concentrated on the conflicted, negative, and ever-changing nature of society.  


Finally, the fourth perspective of important sociological perspectives is feminism. Feminism is mostly assumed as a group of angry women who are trying to dominate men. That is not what feminism is! Feminism in the real sense is a perspective that views society as traditionally unequal between men and women and aims for equality between the sexes.

For instance, you might be aware of the fact that men and women, on average, are not paid equally in the United States. According to certain researches, even with the same education and job demands, women are only paid $0.77 for the same job for which a man would be paid $1.00. Women are barely represented in the government, women are less likely to own a business, and women are less likely to be college professors.

Basic sociological terms

There are numerous basic sociological terms. However, the 5 very basic sociological terms that every individual must know are:

Social conflict

The term social conflict refers to the struggle for agency, authority, or power in society. Social conflict or cluster conflict happens when two or more individuals oppose one another in social interaction, reciprocally exerting social power to gain scarce or incompatible goals and forestall the opponent from attaining them. It’s a social relationship whereby the action is adjusted deliberately for finishing up the individual’s own will against the resistance of opposing party or parties


Internalisation (or internalization) in sociology and different social sciences is the method of acceptance of a collection of norms and values established by individuals or teams that are influential to the individual through the method of socialization.

The process starts with learning what the norms are, then the individual goes through a method of understanding why they have value or why they create sense, till finally, they settle for the norm as their viewpoint.

Permissive Society

​The changes towards freedom in attitudes and behavior that happened in several countries within the 1960s and 1970s, particularly the larger freedom in sexual matters. 


Mainstream explains what is viewed by the general public in a society as “normal,” just like the thought that everybody ought to wed, move to the suburbs, and have youngsters as early as possible. It is something that is typical, or the standard means of doing things.

Social consciousness

Social consciousness refers to the state of being aware of the problems and issues that affect most people in society, such as the less fortunate or the ones with no home, and having an urge to help and do something for these people.

What is Medical Sociology?

Medical sociology is the study of the out-turns of social and cultural factors on health and medicine. Medical sociology experts help individuals view the healthcare system as a function of the society and serve it by examining and improving all its facets. It provides greater career opportunities in the medical field. Medical sociology helps in evaluating the medical organizations and institutions, selecting appropriate methods, the social or cultural impacts of medical applications, and the actions and interconnections of healthcare professionals.

Medical sociologists are also fascinated by the qualitative experiences of patients, typically functioning at the boundaries of public health, social work, demography, and gerontology to explore phenomena at the intersection of the social and clinical sciences. Health disparities commonly relate to typical classes such as class and race.

What is Dramaturgy Sociology?

Sociologist Erving Goffman developed the idea of Dramaturgy sociology, the thought that life is sort of an endless play within which individuals are actors. Goffman believed that when we are born, we are thrust onto a stage referred to as every-day life, in which our socialization consists of learning a way to play our assigned roles from people. Dramaturgy sociology tend to enact our roles within the company of others, who are successively enacting their roles in interaction with us. He believed that no matter what we do, we are playing some role in the stage of life.

Goffman distinguished between front stages and back stages in dramaturgy sociology. Throughout our lifestyle, we tend to pay most of our lives on the front stage, where we deliver our lines and perform. A marriage may be a front stage. A schoolroom reading desk maybe a front stage. Virtually anyplace wherever we tend to act in front of others may be a front stage in dramaturgy sociology. Generally we revisit the rear stages of life. In dramaturgy sociology, we don’t need to act in these non-public areas. We are able to be our real selves. We can additionally practice and make ourselves ready to come back to the front stage. 

Sociology vs Psychology

People often get confused with the terms Sociology and Psychology because they seem so similar. This article will help you get a clear vision on the topic “Sociology vs Psychology”.

If you are interested in either Psychology or Sociology, you might be wondering “which is more interesting?”, “which is easier?”, or “what jobs can I get?”. In order to select either of the respective fields, one must be aware of the similarities and differences between the two fields. 

Sociology vs Psychology: definitions

Both psychologists and sociologists study people. But the major key that defines “Sociology vs Psychology” is that sociologists are concerned with the groups or the entire society, and the psychologist’s center of focus is a single individual. For instance, a psychologist would study why people wait in lines for hours or days to get a new smartphone. On the contrary, a sociologist would study the way the smartphone has changed the family dynamic. Let’s elaborate on “Sociology vs Psychology” a bit more. 

What is Psychology?

Psychology helps us study the mind and behavior of an individual and help him do better in his life. It deals with improving the decision making power, stress management, and behavior of a person based on understanding his past to better predict his future behavior. It deals with evaluating each person’s brain functions without necessarily considering the impact on other people.

Psychologists are curious about how one’s brain works, why it reacts certain ways, why do people do things they do, and what makes you “you”. They seek to discover the causes behind emotional reactions for boosting individual well-being. Thus, psychology largely focuses on cognitive processes such as love, depression, intelligence, grief, stress, etc in an individual’s mind. 

The most interesting thing about psychology is learning about abnormalities in the brain. To put it another way, disorders or mental illnesses, mostly assumed as “taboo” in some countries, when they are actually tremendously prevalent. 

What is Sociology?

Sociology on the other hand, is the scientific study of shaping society and solving its problems. It deals with the interactions of human society and the processes that preserve and change them. People are interdependent, and require collective arrangements and joint activity for their coexistence. Sociology helps in making the society peaceful and interactive and improves our social behavior. 

Sociologists are concerned about why and how particular factors (race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, religion, etc) play a role in the way different groups of people interact with one another. They work to bring real social issues like economic injustice, marriage inequality, social stratification, hate crimes, alcohol addiction, obesity, environmental racism, and healthcare disparity to the front line. 

Sociologists examine certain populations, research contemporary issues, and evaluate how the problems will influence the wellness of society.

Certain tracks are offered by some colleges within their sociology major. These tracks are likely to be family relationships, criminology, organizations in society, religion in sociology, etc. 

Sociology vs Psychology: Coursework

As a student of Psychology, you will study human behavior and mental processes. Your coursework might include the following courses depending on the institute you select:

  • Foundations of Psychology
  • The psychology of learning
  • Psychological Research Methods
  • Creativity
  • Personality
  • Interviewing and Counseling Skills
  • Language Mind and Brain
  • Social Psychology
  • Physiological psychology
  • Individual differences and social processes

However, as a sociology student, you will study groups and societies and the behaviors and interactions between people. Although, your coursework will depend on the institute you select, nevertheless sociology major mostly includes:

  • Introduction to sociology
  • Social Structures
  • Social Research Methods
  • Sociology of Culture
  • Law and Society
  • Sociology of Gender
  • Classes on race and ethnicity
  • Medical institutions
  • Globalization
  • Social problems
  • Concepts of diversity
  • Social responsibility
  • Human rights
  • Dignity and respect for others in society

Sociology vs Psychology: Career

Since both, Sociology and Psychology are different fields therefore, they have different careers. Graduated students have different career options for sociology vs psychology majors, whether they pursue advanced degrees or not. Let’s compare sociology vs psychology’s career: 

Sociology graduates have many options. They can continue their studies, pursuing a master’s or Ph.D. in sociology or another humanities field, or perhaps move into a related field like social work. At this point, they could pursue work in academia, government, or leadership positions in nonprofit organizations. With a bachelor’s degree in sociology, graduates can work in entry-level positions in government or nonprofit organizations, help conduct research, assume social work positions, or practice in the justice system. 

Sociologists work in areas such as:

  • Public, Human, or Social Services
  • Social Research and Analysis
  • Social Justice-Related Services
  • Human Resources

However, Psychology graduates can continue with their degrees to obtain a Ph.D., allowing them to work as a clinical psychologist with their practice and patients. They may also earn a master’s degree and continue their profession into psychological research, or can also use their knowledge of human thought and behavior to work in sales or market research. 

Psychologists work in areas such as:

  • Sales or Market Research
  • Criminal Justice
  • Social Services
  • Counseling/Therapy
  • Public Administration

There could be a lot more careers than mentioned above.

Similarities Between Sociology and Psychology

We have compared sociology vs psychology enough to get an overview of the fields. Let’s look for some similarities between the fields of sociology vs psychology. 

  • They both examine the underlying influences on the human mind and behavior, with the eventual motive of knowing what makes humans tick.
  • They both are concerned with improving the lives of people and making society a better place to live.
  • Both academic programs need a well-rounded undergraduate education in addition to specific courses, moreover an introduction to research and statistical gathering and analysis.
  • Both fields require a master’s or Ph.D. to work in research or teach in a post-secondary setting.
  • Bachelor’s degree holders in either of the field can get several entry-level job opportunities. 
  • Professionals in both fields require the same skills such as critical thinking, research, interpersonal and communication skills.

Sociology vs Psychology: which suits you?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of psychologists is anticipated to increase at a rate of 12% from 2012 to 2022, which is as fast as the average of all occupations.

Both sociology and psychology are interesting subjects since they relate to our real-life experiences. How to choose the major that is the best for you? You can choose between sociology vs psychology by:

  • Sociology could be the best choice if you’re interested in researching the ways societies develop and organize at the macro level.
  • Psychology could be the better choice if you want to specialize in helping individuals on a micro-level by studying mental issues and behavioral reactions.

It will be easier for you to choose one of the two fields if you keep some important factors in mind.

  • The most important factor is your interest. Read about both fields and see which grabs your interest more.
  • Moreover, you can look at factors such as career opportunities, requirements for further study, and institutes offering the majors.

Remember, quality education is the key. Once you have decided on the field you are interested in, enroll in an accredited and reputed institute to get your degree.

Evaluate your interest-level

These questions will help you evaluate your interest-level in sociology vs psychology majors: 

  • Am I more interested in the human mind or how society influences people attracts me more?
  • Is “how individuals impact society” more important or “how society influences people” grabs my interest more?
  • Do I want to solve a single individual’s problem at a time or am I fascinated by solving the social problems in my community?
  • Would I like to understand mental illness or would I like to study race, class, and gender?
  • Am I interested in studying the development of children and adolescents or “Cross-Cultural Perspective” class would be more interesting for me?

If you agree with the first part of the question, it means you’re more interested in Psychology. If you agree with the second half of the question, it means you’re more interested in sociology. 

Sociology vs. Anthropology

Most people are unaware of the term anthropology and often assume it as sociology. No doubt these two disciplines are confusing since both involve the study of human behavior. However, the key difference between sociology vs. anthropology majors is that sociology defines how people interact with each other, and anthropology deals with the way people live i.e. it defines their culture.

Sociology vs Anthropology: definitions

What is sociology?

As we have discussed above that sociology is the scientific study of shaping society and solving its problems. It deals with the interactions of human society and the processes that preserve and change them. People are interdependent, and require collective arrangements and joint activity for their coexistence. Sociology helps in making the society peaceful and interactive and improves our social behavior.

What is anthropology?

On the contrary, anthropology is the study of individuals and their progenitors through time in terms of physical character, environmental and social relations, and culture. In other words, it is the scientific and humanistic study of human species and their various diversities. 

It consists of four primary sub-fields:

  • Archaeology
  • Biological anthropology 
  • Cultural anthropology 
  • Linguistic anthropology

Archaeology deals with the study of objects made by humans (often thousands of years ago). The ways humans adapt to different environments come under Biological anthropologyCultural anthropology examines how humans live and make sense of their surroundings, studying their folklore, cuisine, arts, and social norms. Lastly, linguistic anthropology deals with the ways different cultures communicate.

The research method used by anthropologists is called ethnography or participant observation, which involves rigorous, repeated interactions with people. 

Sociology vs Anthropology: careers

According to The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics the job outlook for anthropologists should grow by 21% from 2010 to 2020.

Both sociology vs anthropology consists of a wide variety of careers. 

Sociologists work in areas such as:

  • Public, Human, or Social Services
  • Social Research and Analysis
  • Social Justice-Related Services
  • Human Resources

However, anthropologists occupy jobs in a variety of academic and non-academic environments. Anthropologists can work in areas like: 

  • College faculty
  • Government and international agencies
  • Museum curators
  • Healthcare centers and nonprofit associations
  • Environmental projects
  • Police departments

Sociology vs. Anthropology: Coursework

As a sociology student, you will study groups and societies and the behaviors and interactions between people. Although, your coursework will depend on the institute you select, nevertheless sociology major mostly includes:

  • Introduction to sociology
  • Social Structures
  • Social Research Methods
  • Sociology of Culture
  • Law and Society
  • Sociology of Gender
  • Classes on race and ethnicity
  • Medical institutions
  • Globalization
  • Social problems
  • Concepts of diversity
  • Social responsibility
  • Human rights
  • Dignity and respect for others in society

On the contrary, anthropology major includes the following courses. This might differ depending on the institute you choose to study in. Your institute might offer the following courses:

  • Anthropological Demography
  • Anthropology of Knowledge
  • Biocultural Perspectives on Food and Nutrition
  • Biological Perspectives on Childhood and Adolescence
  • Brazil: Race and Ethnicity
  • Critical Theory and Ethnography
  • Culture and Cognition (Culture Club): Selfishness, Altruism, Reciprocity: The Origins of Sociality
  • Culture and Mind
  • Ethnographic Film Making
  • Ethnographic Methods and Writing
  • Feminist Anthropology and Ethnography
  • Food and Taboo: History of Dieting
  • Food, Culture and Political Economy
  • Gender and Globalization
  • Gender and Sexual Diversity
  • Linguistic Anthropology of Education