Difference between Social Psychology and Sociology

Published on October 27, 2016

Social psychology is directly related to sociology, as both studies seek to understand the relationship between society and its members. It is the purpose of this article to highlight the important differences between these two interconnected fields of study.

Definitions

Social Psychology vs Sociology
Social psychology studies how an individual typically behaves in a group

Social psychology is an area of sociology and the study of how social influence affects people’s behaviors, thoughts, and emotions, regardless of whether the source of the influence is present, implied, or otherwise. A good example would be cultural norms and social media.

Drawing from this definition, it can be said that social psychology focuses on the factors that cause people to act in a certain way in the presence of other people, including the conditions that would likely trigger certain emotions, behavior, and actions. In addition, social psychologists study how these emotions, beliefs, thoughts, and behaviors are formed and how they affect social interactions.

Sociology is a social science that aims to study society and its origins, organization, institutions, and networks using critical analysis and empirical methods. It is primarily a body of knowledge that seeks to explain change, social order, and disorder. In this context, sociologists study subject matters about social classes, racial divisions, religion and state, family and society, radical change and social stability. It is the sociologist’s aim to unify these widely diverse subjects with the ultimate goal of understanding how people’s hearts and minds are molded by various cultural and social norms.

Social Psychology vs Sociology

So what’s the difference between social psychology and sociology? Social psychology is an area of sociology and is focused on studying what makes people react in a certain way while in the presence of other people. Similarly enough, sociology is a study of society as well, but in a much broader scope. It seeks to explain important issues in our society and the whole world by analyzing society’s origins, institutions, organization, and networks through empirical methods and critical analysis of research data collected.

A social psychologist can work at consulting firms, elementary and secondary schools, private companies, hospitals, and with social welfare and non-profit organizations. Social psychologists can also teach at colleges, elementary and secondary schools. A sociology graduate can usually be employed in government office as a human rights officer, legislative assistant, political aide, or even a politician. In the private sector, a sociologist can be a human resources specialist, communications assistant, or labor relations officer.

The research methods employed in social psychology involve testing hypotheses in a research laboratory and in the field with the aid of experimental, correlational, and observational methods and survey research. On the other hand, sociologists would make use of research methods such as quantitative design and qualitative design, with the former being more prevalent than the latter.

Comparison Chart

Social Psychology Sociology
The study of how social influence affects people’s behaviors, thoughts, and emotions. Analyzes society’s origin, organization, networks, etc. to explain important issues.
A social psychologist can work at consulting firms, elementary and secondary schools, private companies, hospitals, social welfare and non-profit organizations. A sociology graduate can usually be employed as a human rights officer, legislative assistant, political aide, human resources specialist, communications assistant, or labor relations officer.

Video

Here’s a good clip telling the difference between social psychology and sociology.