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Social Science vs. Humanities: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Published on November 22, 2023
Social science studies human behavior and societies; humanities explore human culture and thought.

Key Differences

Social science focuses on the systematic study of human behavior in societal contexts, while humanities delve into human culture, values, and the nature of existence. Both disciplines seek to understand and interpret human experiences, albeit from different perspectives.
In social science, researchers often utilize empirical methods and data collection to draw conclusions about societal patterns and behavior. In contrast, humanities scholars primarily use analytical, critical, or speculative methods to explore subjects like literature, philosophy, and the arts.
Topics under social science might include economics, psychology, and sociology, emphasizing the societal structures and behavioral patterns. Meanwhile, humanities covers areas like history, languages, and music, emphasizing human expression, reflection, and interpretation.
The methodologies in social science are often quantitative, making use of statistical analysis. In the humanities, research tends to be qualitative, emphasizing interpretation and critique.
Social science and humanities, though distinct, can complement each other. For instance, understanding the cultural backdrop (humanities) can enrich the analysis of societal behavior (social science) and vice versa.

Comparison Chart

Nature of Study


Methods Used


Key Focus

Societal Behavior
Human Culture


Psychology, Sociology
Philosophy, Literature


Understanding patterns
Understanding meanings

Social Science and Humanities Definitions

Social Science

Social science often uses quantitative analyses.
Through social science, statisticians analyze population data.


Humanities explore the philosophical and moral aspects of existence.
In the humanities, scholars analyze ethical dilemmas in classic texts.

Social Science

Social science investigates societal structures and interactions.
The growth of urban cities is a focal topic in social science.


Humanities celebrate the diverse manifestations of human creativity.
Art history, within the humanities, chronicles visual artistic evolution.

Social Science

Social science employs empirical methods to draw conclusions.
Social science surveys gather data on public opinions.


Humanities provide a reflective lens on historical and cultural contexts.
Classical music is studied in the humanities for its cultural significance.

Social Science

Social science is the study of human societies and behaviors.
Economists, as part of social science, examine market trends.


Humanities interpret and critique human experiences.
Philosophers in the humanities dissect existential concepts.

Social Science

Social science encompasses disciplines like anthropology and sociology.
In social science, anthropologists study cultural evolution.


Humanities encompass studies of human culture and expression.
Literature, a branch of the humanities, delves into written works across ages.


Humans considered as a group; the human race.


Which fields are included in social science?

Fields like sociology, anthropology, and psychology are part of social science.

What is social science?

It's the study of human societies and behaviors.

What are the humanities?

They are studies focused on human culture and expression.

Do social science and humanities overlap?

Yes, both seek to understand human experiences, but from different angles.

Why are humanities essential?

They provide insight into human culture, values, and thought.

Is psychology a social science?

Yes, it studies human behavior and mind in societal contexts.

Is history part of humanities?

Yes, history is a discipline within the humanities.

Do humanities scholars engage in fieldwork?

Rarely, as their focus is mostly on textual and interpretative analysis.

Which is more subjective: social science or humanities?

Both have subjective elements, but humanities often delve deeper into interpretation.

What is the goal of social science?

To understand and potentially predict human behavior in societal settings.

How do social science and humanities complement each other?

Humanities provide cultural context, enriching social science analyses.

What subjects come under humanities?

Subjects like philosophy, literature, and art history are part of the humanities.

How is research in social science usually conducted?

Through empirical and often quantitative methods.

Do social scientists use statistics?

Often, especially when analyzing large datasets.

Do social science and humanities have practical applications?

Yes, from informing public policy to enriching cultural appreciation.

Which is older: social science or humanities?

Humanities, as ancient civilizations have long explored art, literature, and philosophy.

What research methods are typical for humanities?

Primarily analytical, critical, and interpretative methods.

Why is social science important?

It helps understand societal patterns and human behaviors.

Can a topic be studied both in social science and humanities?

Yes, like a historical event can be analyzed sociologically and philosophically.

What drives humanities research?

A desire to interpret and understand human culture and values.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited 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.

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