What Are the Differences Between Social Psychology and Psychology?


Martha Robinson

Social psychology and psychology are two closely related fields that are often confused with one another. Although these disciplines share similarities, they differ in their focus and scope. In this article, we will explore the differences between social psychology and psychology.

What is Psychology?

Psychology is the study of human behavior and mental processes. It examines how people think, feel, and interact with each other and their environment. Psychology covers various topics such as perception, cognition, emotion, motivation, personality, development, and abnormal behavior.

Psychology emphasizes:

  • The individual
  • The internal processes of the mind
  • The biological basis of behavior

What is Social Psychology?

Social psychology is a subfield of psychology that focuses on how people behave in social situations. Social psychologists investigate how individuals perceive themselves and others, form attitudes, make decisions, influence each other’s behavior, and are influenced by group dynamics.

Social psychology emphasizes:

  • The group or social context
  • The external factors that shape behavior
  • The interplay between the individual and the group

Differences Between Psychology and Social Psychology

The primary difference between these two fields lies in their focus. While psychology studies individual behavior from an internal perspective, social psychology studies behavior from a social perspective. Here are some other key differences:

Subject Matter:

Psychology deals with a wide range of topics that encompass human behavior and mental processes. On the other hand, social psychology focuses specifically on social phenomena such as conformity, obedience, aggression, prejudice.

Research Methods:

Psychologists use various research methods to study human behavior including experiments, surveys, case studies. Social psychologists use similar methods but often focus on laboratory experiments to study social phenomena.


Psychology typically takes a reductionist approach, breaking down behavior into its component parts. Social psychology takes a holistic approach, examining the relationship between individuals and their social environment.


In summary, while psychology and social psychology share similarities, they differ in their focus and scope. Psychology examines the internal processes of the mind and behavior of individuals.

Social psychology examines how individuals behave in social contexts and how external factors shape behavior. Understanding these differences can help us appreciate the unique contributions of each field to our understanding of human behavior.