Natural Science vs. Social Science

What's the Difference?

Natural science and social science are two distinct branches of scientific inquiry that study different aspects of the world. Natural science focuses on understanding the physical and natural phenomena of the universe, such as the laws of physics, chemistry, and biology. It seeks to explain and predict natural events through empirical observation and experimentation. On the other hand, social science investigates human behavior, societies, and the interactions between individuals and groups. It encompasses disciplines like sociology, psychology, anthropology, and economics, aiming to understand social phenomena, cultural patterns, and societal structures. While natural science deals with the objective and measurable aspects of the world, social science explores the subjective and complex nature of human societies.


AttributeNatural ScienceSocial Science
Subject MatterPhysical world, natural phenomenaHuman behavior, society, culture
MethodologyExperimental, empirical, quantitativeObservational, qualitative, quantitative
Research FocusUnderstanding natural laws, cause and effectUnderstanding human behavior, social structures
ApproachReductionist, analyticalInterdisciplinary, holistic
VariablesPhysical properties, measurementsAttitudes, beliefs, demographics
ReplicabilityHigh, experiments can be repeatedVaries, some studies difficult to replicate
GeneralizabilityHigh, laws and theories apply universallyVaries, findings often context-dependent
ImpactTechnological advancements, innovationsSocial policies, human well-being

Further Detail


Natural science and social science are two broad categories within the field of scientific inquiry. While both aim to understand and explain different aspects of the world, they differ in their subject matter, methodologies, and the types of questions they seek to answer. In this article, we will explore the attributes of natural science and social science, highlighting their similarities and differences.

Subject Matter

Natural science primarily focuses on the study of the natural world, including physical phenomena, living organisms, and the laws that govern them. It encompasses disciplines such as physics, chemistry, biology, and geology. Social science, on the other hand, is concerned with human behavior, societies, and the social interactions that shape our world. It includes disciplines like sociology, psychology, anthropology, economics, and political science.


Natural science relies heavily on the scientific method, which involves systematic observation, experimentation, and the formulation of testable hypotheses. It emphasizes objectivity and strives to uncover universal laws and principles that govern the natural world. Researchers in natural science often conduct controlled experiments in laboratories or make observations in the field to gather data.

On the other hand, social science faces unique challenges due to the complexity and variability of human behavior. While social scientists also employ the scientific method, their methodologies often involve qualitative research methods such as interviews, surveys, case studies, and observations of social phenomena. Social science research often takes place in real-world settings, where researchers analyze data to identify patterns and trends in human behavior.

Types of Questions

Natural science seeks to answer questions about the physical world, such as "What causes earthquakes?" or "How does photosynthesis occur?" It aims to uncover the underlying mechanisms and laws that govern natural phenomena. The focus is on understanding the natural world objectively and explaining it through empirical evidence.

On the other hand, social science addresses questions related to human behavior and society, such as "What factors influence voting behavior?" or "How does social inequality impact health outcomes?" Social scientists aim to understand the complexities of human interactions, social structures, and cultural influences. They explore the subjective experiences and motivations of individuals and seek to explain social phenomena through a combination of empirical evidence and theoretical frameworks.

Interdisciplinary Nature

While natural science and social science are distinct fields, there is often overlap and interdisciplinary collaboration between the two. For example, environmental science combines elements of both natural and social sciences to study the impact of human activities on the environment. It examines the physical aspects of pollution and climate change while also considering the social, economic, and political factors that contribute to environmental issues.

Similarly, fields like neuroscience and cognitive psychology bridge the gap between natural and social sciences by exploring the biological basis of human behavior and cognition. These interdisciplinary approaches highlight the interconnectedness of natural and social phenomena and the need for collaboration across disciplines to gain a comprehensive understanding of complex issues.

Limitations and Challenges

Both natural science and social science face unique limitations and challenges in their respective domains. Natural science often deals with controlled laboratory settings, which may not fully capture the complexity of real-world phenomena. Additionally, ethical considerations may limit the extent to which certain experiments can be conducted.

On the other hand, social science research is often influenced by the inherent subjectivity of human behavior. It can be challenging to establish causality in social phenomena due to the presence of multiple variables and the difficulty of controlling all relevant factors. Furthermore, social science research may be influenced by cultural biases and the subjective interpretations of researchers.


In conclusion, natural science and social science are distinct yet interconnected fields of scientific inquiry. While natural science focuses on the study of the natural world and seeks to uncover universal laws and principles, social science explores human behavior, societies, and the complex interactions that shape our world. Both fields employ different methodologies and address different types of questions. However, interdisciplinary collaboration between natural and social sciences is crucial to gain a comprehensive understanding of the world we live in.

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