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Differences between Psychology and Anthropology

Differences between Psychology and Anthropology

January 29, 2023

Psychology and anthropology are two parcels of knowledge and research that can be confused frequently. Both place great importance on the study of the human being, but they do so in different ways.

But… Where exactly are these differences between psychology and anthropology? Are they relevant enough to keep these two disciplines in separate categories? Certainly, if both have different names and are represented by different university careers it is for something. Let's see in which points each one of them is characterized.

  • Related article: "Differences between Psychology and Philosophy"

Main differences between Anthropology and Psychology

These are the basic points in which psychology and anthropology distance themselves. Some of them hint that these two disciplines overlap in certain cases , and the certain thing is that to the practice it is impossible to isolate of everything everything that each one studies. However, both maintain their identity precisely because this overlap is not total, far from it.


1. Psychology is based less on the social

Psychology is a very broad science, and not everything that covers has to do with the social dimension of the human being . For example, basic psychology or biopsychology focus only on the study of the individual, and if they take into account something other than this are a few very limited variables.

Anthropology, on the other hand, always studies the human being as being that is a product of the society in which he lives. That is, it studies the way in which different cultures (and their relationship with biology, in the case of biological anthropology) are expressed through the variety of behaviors characteristic of human beings.

  • Maybe you're interested: "The main types of sociology"

2. The temporary focus of the investigation

Anthropology always starts from a historical perspective. An attempt is made to understand how certain patterns of behavior and certain forms of expression have arisen, taking into account the way in which generations take over from previous generations.


Thus, anthropologists almost always formulate their topics to be investigated and the hypotheses that answer those questions Analyzing broad periods of time . This allows us to better understand those cultural or ethnic characteristics that stand the test of time.

Psychology, on the other hand, part of the analysis of broad periods of time much less frequently . That means that it is intended that part of their findings are timeless. In fact, a large part of the research on which their advances are based is based on the here and now of the moment of taking the measurement.

3. The claim of universality

As we have seen in the previous point, a good part of psychology looks for timeless findings. This gives us clues about another of the differences between psychology and anthropology: the first does not always take into account the effect of culture and it focuses on the biological and the genetic, while the second, although it can take into account the physical differences between groups, emphasizes the transmission of habits, symbols and customs built collectively and that have been born in the constant interaction with the environment.


That is to say, that anthropology studies the human being related to the historical and cultural contingencies in which he lives, while psychology does not have to do this and can also choose to analyze what all human beings have in common in their most basic actions , beyond interpretations.

4. They use different methods

Psychology uses a lot the experimental method, which consists of generating a phenomenon (in this case, psychological) under the careful observation of the researchers, taking a careful and objective record of the facts and comparing these data with those obtained with other people in the that this phenomenon has not been generated.

It also uses correlation studies, in which they collect various data contributed by a large number of individuals to analyze these results and see how the variables interact, which behavior patterns appear, etc. For example, this method would allow to see if people with depression tend to think more about suicide than the rest or not.

These two methodologies are based on the creation of a system of variables very defined and "rigid" that is "filled" by the information captured . They are quantitative forms of study.

Anthropology can also make use of this kind of quantitative techniques, but is defined rather by qualitative methods , those that do not generate rigid schemas before starting to investigate but that adapt in real time to what is observed about the object of study.

For example, when an anthropologist is going to live with a tribe in the Amazon jungle to make notes about what they see and to interview clan members without following a clear and very structured script, they are using qualitative methods.


Anthropology and Psychology (January 2023).


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