Show Summary Details

Page of

Printed from Oxford Research Encyclopedias, Psychology. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a single article for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 30 September 2023

Sociology and Psychologylocked

Sociology and Psychologylocked

  • Cecilia L. RidgewayCecilia L. RidgewayStanford University


Sociology is the social scientific investigation of groups, organizations, and societies and the interaction of people within social contexts. Psychology is typically defined as the study of mind and behavior. Despite the disciplines’ contrasting emphases on groups and collectivities versus the individual, there is an inherent overlap between their domains. The human species is distinctively characterized by individuals who think and act with a view to their own agency but do so in the contexts of groups and relationships upon which they depend for their very survival, let alone their well-being. Because of the dual primacy of the group and the individual that characterizes human life, there are few questions in either psychology or sociology that do not involve in some degree the concerns of the other discipline. This overlap in domain comes to the fore in social psychology, which exists as a long-standing subspecialty in both disciplines. The history of relations between sociology and psychology takes place through the entangled origins of the subspecialty of social psychology in each discipline and the subsequent post–World War II joint PhD programs and departments in social psychology and social relations. Driven by growing disciplinary competition and differentiation, this institutionalized cooperation between the disciplines collapsed at the end of the 1960s. Although the two social psychologies have since developed largely in parallel, the inherent overlap of subject matter has led to more informal cross-disciplinary dialog and mutual influence over a changing set of substantive topics of mutual concern.

Sociological social psychology can be divided into symbolic interactionism and the self, social structure and personality, and structural social psychology and group processes. Although different in substantive focus, each of these approaches examines linkages between various levels of social structure and individual action, with emphases on how structures and groups shape behavior in ways that reproduce societal structures but also potentially change them. Examples of recent substantive topics about which social psychologists in sociology and in psychology have engaged in substantial informal dialog are social identity theory and intergroup behavior, gender stereotypes and inequality, and status dynamics and status inequality among individuals and groups in society.


  • Social Psychology

You do not currently have access to this article


Please login to access the full content.


Access to the full content requires a subscription