What is sociology?

  • Sociology is the study of society.
  • Sociology looks at the social factors which influence human behaviour and the way society shapes the way we live our lives.

What is society?

  • A society is a group of people who share a common culture or a way of life.

What makes it different from other subjects?

It is important to distinguish the way in which sociology differs from other subjects which study human behaviour.

Psychology: Psychology focuses on individual behaviour and the function of the brain whereas sociology focuses on groups of people and how society influences the way they behave.

Journalism: Journalists are interested in expressing a point of view and will often use unscientific ways of supporting their opinions. Sociologists will be more balanced in the presentation of their ideas which are based on research.

Biology: Biology examines the biological causes behind human behaviour e.g. hunger, aggression, sexual desire. Sociology looks at the social or cultural causes behind human behaviour e.g. peer pressure and upbringing.

Sex verses gender

A classic example of the difference between sociology and biology may be found in the words sex and gender.

A biologist will focus mostly on sex i.e. the biological differences between males and females. Males, for example, are generally taller and can grow facial hair. A woman has a higher pitched voice and can bear children.

Sociologists are more interested in gender – that is how the gender socialization of a child influences how they behave and dress. A girl is more likely to wear pink and play with dolls. A boy is more likely to wear blue and play war games. The way a child is brought up will influence how they identify with their gender and therefore how they present themselves to others.