What are 'Social Sciences'

Social sciences are a group of academic disciplines that examine society and how people interact and develop as a culture. Social science as a field of study is separate from the natural sciences, which cover topics such as physics, biology, and chemistry.  Economics, political science, history, law, and geography are considered social sciences.

BREAKING DOWN 'Social Sciences'

Social science as an academic field of study developed out of the Age of Enlightenment (or the Age of Reason), which flourished through much of the 18th century in Europe. Adam Smith, Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Denis Diderot, Immanuel Kant, and David Hume were among some of the giant intellectuals at the time who laid the foundations for the study of social sciences in the Western World. Individuals began to take a more disciplined approach to quantifying their observations of society, and over time similar aspects of a society, such as linguistics and psychology, were separated into unique fields of study. 

Formal Education in Social Sciences

In the U.S., early education of social sciences begins in elementary school, and progresses throughout middle and high school with an emphasis on core social sciences such as economics, political science and history. At the collegiate level, more specialized disciplines are offered.

Examples of Social Sciences

For example, the following 15 departments comprise University of California, Berkeley's Social Sciences Division: African American Studies; Anthropology; Cognitive Science Program; Demography; Economics; Ethnic Studies; Gender and Women's Studies; Geography; History; International & Area Studies Program; Linguistics; Political Science; Political Economy; Psychology; and, Sociology. Master's degree and Ph.D. programs at colleges and universities offer further opportunity for deeper specialization.

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