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Anthropology vs. Sociology: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Updated on November 6, 2023
Anthropology studies human societies and cultures holistically, often historically, while Sociology examines the structures and behaviors within contemporary societies.

Key Differences

Anthropology delves into the study of human beings, their evolution, and the various cultural and social structures they create. This discipline often approaches its subjects with a holistic lens, encompassing both past and present human societies. In contrast, Sociology specifically focuses on studying the patterns, interactions, and organizations within contemporary societies, analyzing the social institutions and dynamics therein.
The methodologies employed in Anthropology often involve extensive fieldwork, participant observation, and sometimes even living within the communities being studied. These methods aim to understand cultures from an insider's perspective. On the other hand, Sociology predominantly uses statistical analyses, surveys, and interviews to garner insights into societal behaviors, structures, and issues.
The breadth of Anthropology covers various subfields like cultural anthropology, linguistic anthropology, physical anthropology, and archaeology. These subfields address different aspects of human existence, from cultural practices to physical evolution. Conversely, Sociology is divided into areas like criminology, social theory, and the sociology of religion, each delving into specific societal topics or structures.
While Anthropology often emphasizes understanding diverse cultures and societies, sometimes those that are remote or historically distant, Sociology predominantly focuses on the complexities of urban and modern societies. It investigates how these societies function, evolve, and face challenges.
Both Anthropology and Sociology play crucial roles in understanding humanity. While Anthropology offers a broad and often historical perspective on human cultures and evolution, Sociology hones in on the specific structures, behaviors, and challenges within present-day societies.

Comparison Chart


Holistic view of human cultures and evolution.
Contemporary social structures and behaviors.


Fieldwork, participant observation.
Surveys, statistical analyses, interviews.


Cultural, linguistic, physical anthropology, archaeology.
Criminology, social theory, sociology of religion.

Study Areas

Both ancient and present-day cultures.
Predominantly modern societies.


Often from an insider's view of cultures.
Analytical view of societal structures.

Anthropology and Sociology Definitions


The study of human societies, cultures, and their development.
Through anthropology, we learn about the rituals and customs of ancient tribes.


An analysis of societal patterns and structures.
He used sociology to examine the impact of media on public opinion.


The science of human evolution and biology.
She studied anthropology to understand human physical traits.


A study of societal institutions, from family to governance.
With a background in sociology, he could dissect the roles of institutions in shaping behaviors.


An investigation into human behavior, customs, and beliefs.
Anthropology reveals the richness of traditions across civilizations.


A discipline focused on societal challenges and changes.
Studying sociology helps address issues like inequality and discrimination.


The discipline analyzing linguistic, archeological, and cultural facets of humans.
She chose anthropology to delve deeper into ancient civilizations' languages.


The study of social behaviors, interactions, and organizations.
Through sociology, we can understand the dynamics of urban life.


The scientific study of the origin, the behavior, and the physical, social, and cultural development of humans.


The examination of human relationships within societies.
She was drawn to sociology to understand family dynamics across cultures.


That part of Christian theology concerning the genesis, nature, and future of humans, especially as contrasted with the nature of God
"changing the church's anthropology to include more positive images of women" (Priscilla Hart).


The study of human social behavior, especially the study of the origins, organization, institutions, and development of human society.


The holistic scientific and social study of humanity, mainly using ethnography as its method.
According to anthropology, there are six basic patterns of kinship terminology (i.e., "kin naming systems"): Sudanese, Hawaiian, Eskimo, Crow, Omaha, and Iroquois.


Analysis of a social institution or societal segment as a self-contained entity or in relation to society as a whole.


The science of the structure and functions of the human body.


A social science that studies society, human social interaction, patterns of social relationships, and the interactions of culture. Through both theory and applied research, it engages subject matters across a range of microanalysis, mesoanalysis, and macroanalysis.


The science of man, including the study of the ditribution of physical and cultural attributes in relation to man's origin, location, history, and environment; - sometimes used in a limited sense to mean the study of man as an object of natural history, or as an animal.


That branch of philosophy which treats of the constitution, phenomena, and development of human society; social science.


That manner of expression by which the inspired writers attribute human parts and passions to God. See also anthropopathite, anthropopathism, anthropomorphist.


The study and classification of human societies


The social science that studies the origins and social relationships of human beings


A holistic examination of humans across time and space.
His passion for anthropology led him to explore diverse global cultures.


What does Anthropology study?

Anthropology studies human societies, cultures, and their evolution both historically and presently.

Is Anthropology only about studying distant cultures?

No, while Anthropology does study diverse cultures, it also encompasses human evolution and biology.

What societal structures might Sociology investigate?

It can analyze structures like religion, education, media, and more.

How do Anthropology and Sociology differ in methodology?

Anthropology often involves fieldwork and observation, while Sociology uses surveys and statistical analyses.

Which discipline, Anthropology or Sociology, studies ancient civilizations?

Anthropology often delves into both ancient and modern cultures.

Does Anthropology only involve studying humans?

While primarily about humans, Anthropology also studies cultural artifacts, languages, and physical remains.

How do Anthropology and Sociology contribute to understanding global challenges?

Anthropology offers cultural insights, while Sociology provides perspectives on societal structures and behaviors.

Can Sociology provide insights into family dynamics?

Yes, Sociology examines human relationships, including family dynamics.

Which field, Anthropology or Sociology, would study urban issues like gentrification?

Sociology would typically study such contemporary urban issues.

What is the primary focus of Sociology?

Sociology examines the structures, interactions, and behaviors within contemporary societies.

Can Anthropology provide insights into human linguistics?

Yes, linguistic anthropology is a subfield studying language's role in societies.

How does Anthropology approach its subjects?

It often takes a holistic approach, understanding cultures from an insider's perspective.

Is Sociology limited to studying only modern societies?

While its primary focus is on modern societies, Sociology can also reference historical contexts.

Which discipline, Anthropology or Sociology, would study societal reactions to a pandemic?

Both could, with Anthropology looking at cultural responses and Sociology analyzing societal structures and behaviors.

Can Sociology inform public policies?

Yes, by providing insights into societal behaviors and challenges, Sociology can inform policy decisions.

Are there overlaps between Anthropology and Sociology?

Yes, both fields sometimes intersect, especially when studying societal behaviors and structures.

Which discipline, Anthropology or Sociology, might study religious institutions?

Both can, but Sociology often examines religious institutions' role in contemporary societies.

How does Anthropology address human evolution?

Physical anthropology, a subfield, specifically studies human evolution and biology.

Why might someone choose to study Sociology?

To understand societal patterns, relationships, challenges, and structures in contemporary contexts.

Why is Anthropology vital in a globalized world?

It offers insights into diverse cultures, helping promote understanding and coexistence.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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