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The 10 branches of the social sciences

The 10 branches of the social sciences

June 24, 2021

The main interest of the social sciences is to study human social behavior. More specifically, the social sciences study subjectivity and its relation to the structural aspects of society. This is divided into many specialties that are responsible for analyzing and describing the specificity of different social processes as well as their impact on individuals.

Next we explain what are the social sciences and the characteristics of their branches .

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What are the social sciences?

The social sciences are a set of academic disciplines that study aspects of the human related individual behavior and the functions and elements of social organization .


Unlike formal sciences, such as mathematics, logic or physics; The social sciences study living systems. At the same time, they differ from the natural sciences (who also study living systems), while the social sciences study such systems based on the complexity of behavior and its effects in social terms.

They have, on the other hand, more relation with the human sciences (the humanities), because both that study great part of the subjectivity and the colectivity, nevertheless, are different insofar as the social sciences emphasize the use of scientific methods, while the humanities use more artistic and aesthetic methods.


In terms of science, "the social" appeared formally until the 19th century, when its disciplines were consolidated as fields of research with their own and differentiated objects of study. In the beginning, the term "social science" was used to group Studies on culture and society , with which anthropology and sociology were two of the pioneers.

However, their antecedents can be traced even centuries ago, in the curiosity we have to understand what makes us human beings, the nature of our behaviors, the relationship with the environment, how we do not organize socially, and so on.

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The 10 main branches of the social sciences

The social sciences can be divided into different disciplines, which varies according to the intention of the person who defines and uses them. For example, according to the tradition of specific social science, one of these disciplines can be considered a social science, or a human science, or even a natural science.


Likewise and according to the needs of each context, there may be more or less disciplines within the social sciences. This is the case, for example, of the limits that exist between some subdisciplines in medicine (such as social medicine), sociobiology, neuropsychology or philosophy itself.

However, very roughly we can divide the social sciences in 10 fundamental disciplines : anthropology, sociology, geography, history, law, political science, economics, communication, pedagogy and psychology.

1. Anthropology

Anthropology is the discipline that studies the social behavior of human beings in relation to their physical characteristics and the cultural elements in which they are registered. This implies the forms and norms that culture takes in different societies both past and present.

It is a holistic discipline because it integrates different knowledge from various branches of the social sciences and natural sciences. It can be subdivided into different branches, such as physical anthropology, cultural anthropology, linguistic anthropology, or archeology.

2. Sociology

Sociology is responsible for studying human social relations and their institutions. This implies that their objects of study are very diverse. They can go, for example, from religion to the family, through class social divisions or racial divisions and the organization of states, among many others. It seeks to understand both social stability and the processes of change and transformation.

At an individual level, sociology allows us to understand the consequences of social phenomena on people (for example, gender identities, religious faith, family institutions). And on a global level, sociology can help us understand phenomena such as migration, population growth, wars, economic development , among others.

3. Geography

Geography is the social science that is responsible for studying the different environments and spaces that make up the earth's surface, as well as the interactions that occur between and within them.It is responsible for describing the main characteristics of the places where our life takes place, especially paying attention to natural environments and how we relate to these .

As a result of this discipline have arisen, for example, maps, which among other things allow us to understand where they are and how are the sites where we develop from graphical descriptions of the earth.

4. History

History is the discipline that is responsible for studying, describe and represent the events of the past , usually recorded in written documents, although not necessarily. While "the past" is a fairly broad category, history can be divided in many ways.

This division begins with defining when it has passed from prehistory to history. From this, you can study the different periods that have characterized different societies. There is, for example, medieval history, modern or contemporary; but also history of religion, art history, universal history, among many others .

5. Right

Law as a specialty within the social sciences is responsible for studying all the institutions, their systems of rules and authority related to legality. On many occasions the law is separated from the social sciences and is understood as a school of its own, however, this area of ​​study is based on the idea that laws and legality are in themselves social institutions, and that is why it is usually considered a branch of social science.

In this sense, the right it draws on human sciences such as philosophy, but also on politics, economics , sociology or history. The intention is to understand and generate institutional normative orders that impact human behavior and social relations.

6. Political science

Political science is the discipline that studies, describes and analyzes theories and practices, systems and political behaviors. Seeks to understand power transfers in the processes of political decisions and how these transfers are organized publicly and socially.

In addition to political theory, some subdisciplines that make up this social science, are the theories of democracy and governance, the study of national systems, public and administrative policy, international law, among others.

Methodologically , political science performs, for example, analysis of primary sources such as written historical documents or interviews; and secondary sources such as scientific articles, among other methods of empirical collection.

7. Economy

The economy studies, analyzes and describes the processes of production, distribution and consumption of goods and services. It seeks to understand what means we have generated to meet our needs and how that impacts us both individually and socially. While economic activity is very diverse, economics as a social science can be subdivided into different areas. For example there are studies in public economy, labor economics, international economics , development economy, among many others.

8. Communication

This discipline studies and describes the human processes related to creation and the exchange of symbols that help us to communicate . Specifically it studies how the messages that we elaborate can be interpreted through different political, cultural or economic dimensions in each context. Among other things, it analyzes how messages are elaborated and transmitted through the mass media, although it can also be through the arts, technology, among other areas.

9. Pedagogy

Pedagogy is a discipline that studies the teaching-learning processes that occur in different environments, especially within schools, insofar as they are the institutions where education is developed and transmitted. Education has positioned itself as one of the fundamental aspects of culture because it allows the socialization and transmission of knowledge from one generation to another.

In this sense, Pedagogy is the science that studies educational processes and also applies them , through different tools that share for example with psychology, sociology, communication, among others.

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10. Psychology

Psychology is the discipline that study human behavior and mental processes . It differs from other social sciences, such as anthropology, in that it seeks to develop generalized explanations about mental functions and individual behaviors, and not so much about cultural or historical processes.

However, it is very related to other human and social disciplines, since in order to develop explanations about individual functioning, it has been necessary to take into account how we develop in relation to others.Thus different branches have emerged, some of the main ones being clinical psychology, social psychology, educational psychology, organizational psychology or neuropsychology.

Bibliographic references:

  • Johnston, R. (2018). Geography Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved June 14, 2018. Available at //www.britannica.com/science/geography
  • New World Encyclopedia (2015). Social science Retrieved June 14, 2018. Available at //www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Social_sciences
  • The university of North Carolina (2018). What is sociology? Retrieved June 14, 2018. Available at //sociology.unc.edu/undergraduate-program/sociology-major/what-is-sociology/

An Animated Introduction to Social Science (June 2021).


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