Difference Between Behavioral Science and Social Science

Behavioral Science vs Social Science

Behavioral science and social science are two different sciences and the difference between them can be discussed in terms of their scope, subject matters, and methodologies. However, due to some overlap in them, the two disciplines are misunderstood to be the same and used interchangeably by most people. In fact, behavioral science pays attention to the behavior of human beings and animals. Social science, on the other hand, focuses on the human being, but in the social context. It explores the social processes, organizations, and institutions. However, it has to be stated that,in some instances, it is difficult to clearly consider one discipline as belonging to behavioral science and not the other. Sociology and anthropology are two such disciplines that are categorized under both behavioral, as well as social sciences. This is because these two disciplines tend to overlap.

What is Behavioral Science?

First when examining behavioral sciences, they can be defined as the disciplines that study the behavior of humans, as well as animals. These include the decision-making and communication among individuals. Psychology, behavioral genetics, and cognitive science are some examples for behavioral sciences. Behavioral sciences are distinguished under two categories as decision sciences and social communication sciences. The special distinction between behavioral sciences and social sciences stem not only from the subject matter, but also from the methodology. Behavioral scientists employ more experimental methods, unlike social scientists. Also, research is conducted both in the natural setting as well as the controlled setting. These sciences attempt to achieve high empiricism, unlike social sciences.

Difference Between Behavioral Science and Social Science - What is Behavioral Science

Flock-like behavior in humans

What is Social Science?

A social science can be defined as a discipline that studies the human behavior in different social contexts. There are a number of social sciences, each focusing on a particular area of human life. These include political science, sociology, economics, demography, geography, history, etc. Unlike in the case of behavioral sciences, in social sciences research cannot be conducted in restricted, controlled settings as it affects the quality of data. Also, the reliance on experimental methods is scarce in social sciences. Let us understand the subject matter of social sciences through a single discipline. When focusing on sociology as a social science, it explores the human beings as groups. So attention is on different social institutions such as family, religion, politics, education, and economy. The groups of individuals within these social institutions are being studied. Hence, sociology attempts to study the society as a whole, without paying attention to individual differences. In all social sciences, the focus is similar. It explores the social organizations, institutions, and similar social and cultural contexts and their different dynamics. Unlike in the case of behavioral sciences, the level of empiricism is low. This is because it elucidates areas such as attitudes and opinions, which cannot be quantified. This is why in social sciences a range of methods and techniques are used. Some of these techniques include interview method, observation method, surveys, etc.

Difference Between Behavioral Science and Social Science - What is Social Science

The social institution called family

What is the difference between Behavioral Science and Social Science?

• Behavioral science focuses on the behavior of human beings and animals whereas Social sciences focus on the human being in the social context.

• Behavioral sciences are more experimental in nature whereas, in social sciences, this quality is rather vague.

• Behavioral sciences have a high level of empiricism, but in social sciences, it is low.

• Behavioral sciences concentrate on the communication and decision related themes whereas social sciences focus on the larger social systemic themes.


Images Courtesy:

  1. Flock-like behavior in humans by Christiaan Briggs (CC BY-SA 3.0)
  2. Family by Catherine Scott (CC BY-SA 2.0)