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Is psychology a social science? – A guide to clear the confusion on psychology!

Psychology is a subject that is getting more and more attention as the days pass from modern society. One primary reason might be the increasing people’s awareness regarding the mind, its function, and well-being. With the rising popularity, there are increasing confusions too. One such massive confusion among people is that “Is psychology a social science?”. 

Looking deeper into confusions regarding psychology, we can find so many.

“What type of science is psychology?” 

“Is psychology humanities?”

“Why is psychology a social science?”

And there are so much more! The best way to clear these confusions is to understand a few of the terminologies of science and their classifications. 

Let us dive into clearing this confusion step by step. 

What is a science, and is psychology a science too?

Science is the systematic initiative that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable justifications and estimates about our universe. Science always bases itself on research and scientific methodology. This is commonly led by scientists working in research and academic institutions. 

Science is an enormous discipline that commonly divides into three major groups. They are the branches of science AKA “scientific fields”, or “scientific disciplines.” 

  • Formal sciences- It is the scientific study of formal systems, such as mathematics, computer science, or Logic, which use an a priori
  • Natural sciences- It is the scientific study of natural phenomena, including cosmological, geological, physical, chemical, and biological factors of the universe. Natural science divides itself into two main branches: physical science and life/ biological science.
  • Social sciences – It is the scientific study of human behavior in its social and cultural aspects. When considering social sciences, it comprises several subject areas like economics, human geography, linguistics, and psychology.

Natural and social sciences we call empirical sciences. Meaning is that the knowledge of social sciences bases on observable phenomena and experiences. Of course, these theories must have the capability of being verified by other researchers working under identical conditions. 

Now, let us see what social science is and why is psychology considered a social science? 

Branches of Social Science and Definition

Social science is the sector of science dedicated to studying societies and the interrelations among individuals of those societies.

The term previously defined the field of sociology, the original “science of society”. But modern Social science encompasses a wide range of academic disciplines, including sociology. 

Therefore, if you ever came across the question “is sociology a social science” then the answer is a big yes! It is like a subcategory of Social science. 

If we look into the other branches of social studies, they are as follows. 

  • Anthropology
  • Area studies
  • Business studies
  • Civics
  • Communication studies
  • Criminology
  • Demography
  • Development studies
  • Economics
  • Education
  • Environmental studies
  • Folkloristics
  • Gender studies
  • Geography
  • History
  • Industrial relations
  • Information science
  • International relations
  • Law
  • Library science
  • Linguistics
  • Media studies
  • Political science
  • Psychology
  • Public administration
  • Sociology
  • Social work
  • Sustainable development

If you have ever wondered, “is economics a social science?” or “is history a social science,” the above list may answer you with a “YES.”

Social scientists who are Positivists use methods that are used in natural sciences as tools to understand society. This method represents the stricter modern sense of scientific study. On the other hand, Interpretivist social scientists may use social critique or symbolic explanations rather than empirically verifiable theories. They treat science in its broader sense. 

When considering modern academic practices, scientists often behave eclectic, that is, using multiple methodologies combined.

What is Psychology?

Psychology is the academic and applied field involved in the study of behavioral and mental processes. In other words, Psychology is a social science discipline; psychologists scientifically study human behaviors and apply the knowledge to various spheres of human activity. They help to solve the problems of individuals’ day-to-day lives and treat mental illness. 

In the psychology field, a researcher or a professional practitioner is a psychologist. Moreover, they classify themselves as social, behavioral, or cognitive scientists. Psychologists always try to understand the role of mental functions in individuals as well as social behavior. Researchers also explore the physiological and biological processes that underlie cognitive functions and behaviors.

Psychologists explore behavior and mental processes including: –
  • Perception 
  • Cognition 
  • Attention
  • Emotion
  • Intelligence
  • Subjective experiences
  • Motivation 
  • Brain functioning
  • Personality

These processes extend to an interaction between people, like interpersonal relationships, including psychological resilience, family resilience, and other areas. So, psychologists of varied orientations also conduct studies on the unconscious mind.

Psychologists use empirical methods to conclude causal and correlational relationships between psychosocial variables. In addition to empirical and deductive methods, some psychologists rely upon symbolic interpretation and other inductive techniques as well. This is more common in clinical and counseling. 

As mentioned before, psychological knowledge plays a huge role in assessing and treating mental health problems. It also directs towards understanding and solving problems in several spheres of human activity. By many accounts, psychology ultimately targets society.

The majority of psychologists are involved in therapeutic roles, practicing in clinical, counseling, or school settings. Of course, many perform scientific research on a vast range of topics related to mental processes and behavior. These professionals typically work in university psychology departments or teach in other academic settings like medical schools and hospitals. Some are working in industrial and organizational settings. Moreover, some in other areas like human development and aging, sports, health, and the media. Psychologists play a role in forensic investigation and other aspects of law too.

Overall, Psychology deals with scientific studies which combine thoroughly into the social environment. Unlike other science disciplines like Physics, Chemistry, Biology, or Mathematics, this field does not associate with measurements, quantities, or numbers. The entities and subject matters of Psychology are entirely abstract and subjective. Therefore, Psychology is one of the active subjects of social science. 

Major schools of thought

  • BiologicalPsychologists consider the organism as the basis of the mind. Psychiatrists and neuro – psychologists run studies on the interface of mind and body. Biological psychology, AKA physiological psychology or neuropsychology, is the study of the biological substrates of behavior and mental processes. Comparative psychology is the key research topic in this field. These studies are on humans in relation to other animals, perception on physical mechanics of sensation, and neural and mental processing. 
  • Behavioral – Psychologists consider human behavior as a significant area of study. When considering the most research in this area began with tests on mammals. Of course, the basic idea is that humans exhibit similar fundamental tendencies with mammals. Behavioral research always aspires to enhance the effectiveness of techniques for behavior modification.
  • Cognitive- Cognitive psychology covers research on cognition, the mental processes under mental activity. Perception, reasoning, attention, thinking, memory, problem-solving, learning, language, and emotion are research areas. With reference to classical cognitive psychology, it deals with a school of thought known as cognitivism that argues for an information processing model of mental function. 

Why is psychology considered a social science?

Now you can see that psychology is the social science that studies human society and social behavior. Also, psychologists scientifically study and use the scientific methodology for its studies on humans and societies. Thus, we can say psychology is a science, and also psychology is a social science discipline. 

  • Being a discipline of Science, Psychology deals with the development and growth of a human mind and its various stages. Psychology’s key subject matter is associated with human behavior, memory, personality, attitude, mind, social and cognitive development, and more. So, all these areas highly combine with the presence of an individual in the social world. E.g., the behavior, personality, or attitude of a human being shows a lot in his social surroundings. Thus, Psychology is a social science.
  • Psychology and its way of studying the subject have many things in common with other pure science branches. But, in the end, most of the entities of Psychology are defined via prediction. On the other hand, several subject matters of humanities are also identified through research and predictions. Therefore, Psychology is not pure science but a branch of social science.
  • Psychology has a lot to do with social cognition. How people think, learn, perceive and behave has a direct influence on the social environment. Similarly, human behavior also affects social surroundings. So, this is an excellent reason why Psychology is a social science.
  • Psychology provides a great scope to conduct various research and studies, just like other subject matters of humanities. These research and reviews divide into facts, observations, Logic, conclusion, and hypothesis. These reviews are helpful for further developmental studies of psychology.

Psychology Vs. other disciplines

Psychology differs from economics, anthropology, sociology, and political science; because Psychology seeks explanations about individuals’ mental function and evident behavior. But other subjects focus on the functioning of social groups or situation-specific human behaviors. 

However, in practice, several cross-fertilizations take place among the various fields. That is why some people confuse psychology as life science or physical science. 

Psychology differs from biology or neuroscience because it primarily focuses on the interaction of mental processes and behavior and the system’s overall functions. Life sciences are basically about the biological or neural processes themselves. But most other disciplines also use psychology as a combination for their studies. The best example is the association of psychology with clinical psychology. This study focuses on assessing and treating problems in living and psychopathology. 

Psychology has numerous specialties in other study areas, as follows:

 

  • Social psychology
  • Cognitive psychology
  • Developmental psychology
  • Industrial-organizational psychology
  • Educational psychology
  • Neuropsychology
  • Mathematical psychology
  • Quantitative analysis of the behavior

The above clarification can surely clear some of the confusion too. 

“Is psychology a physical science?” – “NO.”

“Is Psychology a social science or life science?” – “Psychology is a social science.”

Is psychology a social science or humanities?

There was a vast confusion between a fact of whether Psychology is a branch of Humanities or Science. However, the actual definition of Psychology emerged after undergoing numerous research and studies.

Psychology deals with the science and mechanisms to study the human mind, characteristics, and behavior in order to identify one’s mental status. Let us start with the meaning of the term “Psychology.” Psyche, coming from Greek, means soul, and logos, also Greek; means the study. Thus, Psychology is like the study of the soul; Of what humans think, how they behave, and why they behave in that way. It is about the manner a society behaves.

On the contrary, humanity is all about what happened to humanity in history, what is happening now, or in the future. It is also about where we live, why we live there. Therefore, Humanities is history and geography. Not Psychology. 

The confusion occurs due to the word “Human” in Humanities. We automatically come to think it is about human behavior, therefore is psychology a humanities

The humanities are the study of ancient and modern languages, philosophy, literature, history, archaeology, anthropology, human geography, law, politics, religion, and art. 

This is also an excellent place to clear another confusion that comes along; “is philosophy a social science?” Like the previous case, as psychology and philosophy go a little bit together, most people think they are both in the same branch. But it is not! Philosophy is, as you can see, a primary subject of Humanities.

Conclusion

Psychology is a subject that is getting more and more attention in modern society. One primary reason might be the increasing people’s awareness regarding mind, function, and well-being. With the rising popularity, there are increasing confusions too. The branch or the category which Psychology falls in is one massive confusion among most people. 

To clear this mist in a nutshell, Psychology is a science that uses scientific study and scientific methodology for its studies on humans and societies. It is a significant discipline that comes under social sciences, i.e., studying human behavior in its social and cultural aspects. Also, do not forget to note that Psychology is not a branch of Humanities too. 

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