Distinguishing Anthropology from Psychology

Anthropology vs Psychology

Anthropology and psychology are two distinct subjects within the field of social sciences, with various differences between them. Anthropology takes a holistic approach and studies all aspects of humanity, particularly in cultural settings, while psychology focuses on human behavior and incorporates theories to explain this behavior. Psychology studies the human psyche and occasionally animal behavior, whereas anthropology investigates human cultures as a whole, not just behavior. This article will further explore the differences between anthropology and psychology.

What is Anthropology?

Anthropology refers to the study of human behavior exclusively in different cultures. If you have an interest in human culture and its diversity, anthropology may be more relevant to your interests than psychology, which is more concerned with human behavior that considers societal pressures and conformity, as well as virtues and abnormal behaviors found in varying degrees in individuals within the same society. In contrast to psychology, anthropology discusses human cultures in a more generalized way, while keeping idiosyncrasies in check.

Anthropology is a broader field of study compared to psychology, which is limited to human behavior. Anthropology examines not only human behavior in societies but also the physical features of different cultures, archaeology, linguistics, and cultural developments in various human cultures. Cultural psychology is one area of study that closely resembles psychological anthropology, with the distinctions between the two subjects becoming almost indistinguishable. Another field of study, social psychology, explains human behavior in groups and societies, and closely aligns with social anthropology, which examines human behavior based on social interactions.

What is Psychology?

Psychology is the scientific study of mental processes and human behavior. In some ways, psychology complements anthropology, as the understanding gained from human behavior helps explain cultures. Although human behavior is heavily influenced by society, there are human traits that are not universally found, such as aggression and other idiosyncrasies. These behavioral traits have no connection with societal behavior and depend on genetics and circumstances. People’s behavior in their interactions with others varies across different cultures, and a comparative and cross-cultural study of human behavior in anthropology brings us closer to psychology, which is better explained through evolutionary biology.

A significant difference between psychology and anthropology is that psychology focuses on the mental processes of both humans and animals, while anthropology examines human behavior exclusively in different cultures. Psychology deals with mental faculties such as cognition, perception, emotions, personality, interpersonal relationships, and how these mental processes affect human behavior positively or negatively. Although psychology can sometimes generalize, it is more individualistic in nature, while anthropology speaks about human cultures in a more generalized manner and keeps idiosyncrasies in check.

There are more potent factors at work influencing human behavior than just societies and cultures, as evidenced by more priests and religious persons serving prison sentences than atheists and agnostics. Lies, deceit, sex, violence, aggression, and behavioral idiosyncrasies require a combined and cross-disciplinary study approach and necessitate a parallel study of both anthropology and psychology to better understand these phenomena.

Key Takeaways

  • Anthropology is holistic and studies all aspects related to humanity, whereas psychology focuses on human behavior and includes theories to explain this behavior.
  • Psychology studies the human psyche, while anthropology investigates human cultures as a whole.
  • Anthropology is more holistic compared to the individualistic nature of psychology, although the influence of the group on the individual is not ignored in general.
Maria Nguyen
Maria Nguyen
Maria Nguyen is a talented writer with a flair for developing captivating content in a range of formats. Her commitment to thorough research and producing top-notch material has contributed to over 4 years of professional writing and editing experience. Outside of work, Maria finds pleasure in solitary activities and immersing herself in nature. Her introspective nature and passion for self-reflection inspire her creativity. She believes that spending time alone and observing the natural world can provide valuable insights and foster personal growth, broadening her perspective as a writer.


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