Anthropology is the study of human societies and cultures to understand why a group of people behave a certain way. Unlike other social sciences, anthropology utilizes fieldwork to look beyond the confinements of one’s society and compares it to the past and present beliefs and customs of other civilizations. This makes anthropology a holistic science as anthropologists spend an extended period of time with the group they are studying and engage in a series of techniques to gather information.
If we were to compare sociologists to anthropologists in explaining the social organization of a society, sociologists would only brush upon the surface to explain a societies social organization by referencing only their own society, but anthropologists have a broader perspective as they would compare and contrast their own social structure with other societies, thus taking a cross-cultural approach.
Anthropologists believe that a cross-cultural approach is possible when understanding the behaviors of a group of people because we cannot survive as individuals, so we take from other societies and cultures and incorporate it into our own society. Therefore, people share societies and cultures. When anthropologists take a cross-cultural approach, they first identify patterns they are interested in explaining and begin to ask a variety of questions in order for them to develop a theory and idea on how to make an approach in explaining the causation of the patterns they have identified.
They then try to identify the correlation of the pattern with other societies through objective and systematic ways. A cross-cultural approach utilizes data that was gathered by ethnographers. Ethnographers utilizes a “combination of methods to arrive at a picture of life in that community or society” (8 Ember). Usually, participant observation, interviewing and genealogical methods are used by ethnographers. Synchronic ethnographic information is the most common in anthropology for a worldwide cross-cultural approach.
On the other hand, other social sciences compare across nations. “Economists, sociologists, and political scientists generally use secondary data when they study large samples of nations, but the data they use are not generally ethnographic […] rather the data used in cross-national comparisons may be based on censuses and other statistics.” (11 Ember) Therefore, unlike other social sciences, anthropology generally utilizes ethnographic means to understand a group’s behavior.
The anthropological perspective does not only include a cross-cultural approach, but also an evolutionary approach. Anthropologists study the adaptation, variation, and change of human societies and culture to understand the “strange”. Anthropologists make the “familiar strange and the strange familiar” (3 Spiro) in order to set their biases and preferences aside, so that they can fully internalise and understand one’s society and culture.