Is Psychology an Applied Social Science?


Diego Sanchez

Psychology is a fascinating field of study that seeks to understand human behavior and mental processes. It explores various aspects of the human mind, such as cognition, perception, motivation, and emotion.

While psychology is often considered a social science, there has been ongoing debate about whether it can be classified as an applied social science. In this article, we will delve into this question and explore the different perspectives surrounding it.

What is a Social Science?

Before we can determine whether psychology is an applied social science, we need to have a clear understanding of what constitutes a social science. Broadly speaking, social sciences are disciplines that study human society and the relationships between individuals within it. They aim to analyze and explain various social phenomena using scientific methods.

Social sciences encompass a range of disciplines such as sociology, anthropology, political science, economics, and psychology. Each field focuses on different aspects of human behavior and society but shares the common goal of understanding and explaining social phenomena.

The Study of Human Behavior in Psychology

Psychology primarily focuses on the study of human behavior and mental processes. It explores why people think, feel, and behave the way they do in different situations. Psychologists use various methods such as experiments, observations, surveys, and interviews to gather data and draw conclusions about human behavior.

Psychology also examines how individuals interact with others in social settings. It explores topics like interpersonal relationships, group dynamics, cultural influences on behavior, and the impact of society on individual mental health.

The Applied Aspect of Psychology

Applied psychology refers to the practical application of psychological principles to real-world problems or situations. This includes using psychological knowledge to solve issues related to mental health, education, business management, sports performance, and more.

Psychologists who specialize in applied psychology work directly with individuals or groups to improve their well-being and functioning. For example, clinical psychologists provide therapy to individuals with mental health disorders, while educational psychologists develop strategies to enhance learning in educational settings.

So, is psychology an applied social science?

The Case for Psychology as an Applied Social Science

Many argue that psychology meets the criteria of an applied social science because it applies scientific principles and research methods to understand and address social issues. Psychologists use empirical evidence to develop theories and interventions that can be implemented in various contexts.

The field of social psychology, for instance, explores how individuals’ thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are influenced by others. Social psychologists conduct experiments to investigate topics such as conformity, obedience, persuasion, and prejudice. The knowledge gained from these studies can then be applied to real-world situations such as reducing prejudice or improving teamwork.

The Case Against Psychology as an Applied Social Science

On the other hand, some argue that psychology may not fit neatly into the category of an applied social science because it also encompasses other branches that focus on individual behavior rather than societal issues. For example, cognitive psychology investigates mental processes like memory, attention, problem-solving – areas that may not immediately connect with broader social concerns.

In addition, some critics suggest that the use of experimental methods and laboratory settings in psychological research may limit its applicability to real-world contexts. They argue that the controlled environment of experiments may not fully capture the complexities of everyday life.

In Conclusion

In conclusion, whether psychology is considered an applied social science is a matter of interpretation. While it undoubtedly shares similarities with other social sciences in its study of human behavior within a societal context, it also encompasses areas that focus on individual cognitive processes. However, the applied aspect of psychology, where psychological principles are utilized to address real-world issues, supports its classification as an applied social science.

Ultimately, the classification of psychology may vary depending on one’s perspective and the specific branch of psychology being considered. Nevertheless, it is clear that psychology plays a vital role in understanding and addressing social phenomena and improving people’s lives.