Ask Difference

Concept vs. Theory — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman — Updated on October 30, 2023
Concept is an idea or abstract principle, while Theory is an explanation based on evidence.
Concept vs. Theory

Difference Between Concept and Theory

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Key Differences

A Concept is a general notion or idea about something, often intangible or abstract. A Theory, on the other hand, is an organized system of accepted knowledge that explains certain phenomena.
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Oct 30, 2023
In the realm of science and research, a Concept may represent a foundational element or principle, whereas a Theory represents a validated framework explaining the interrelationship of various concepts.
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Oct 30, 2023
A Concept can be seen as the building block or component of a theory. While a Theory is a structured set of concepts that have been tested and validated to explain a phenomenon.
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To understand a Theory, one often needs to grasp the underlying Concepts that support it. Conversely, a Concept gains broader significance when incorporated into a theory.
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Oct 30, 2023
A Concept is like the seed of an idea, and a Theory is the tree that grows from it, branching out and evolving as more evidence and information are added.
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Oct 30, 2023
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Comparison Chart

Nature

An idea or abstract principle
An explanation based on evidence
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Application

Foundational element or principle
Structured set of concepts explaining a phenomenon
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Evolution

Can develop into a theory with enough evidence
Built upon tested and validated concepts
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Validation

Doesn't require empirical evidence
Requires empirical evidence and testing
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Complexity

Singular and foundational
Multi-faceted and comprehensive
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Compare with Definitions

Concept

A foundational principle.
The concept of justice varies across cultures.
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Theory

A system of ideas intended to explain something.
The Big Bang theory describes the origin of the universe.
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Concept

A mental representation.
She had a clear concept of the project's objectives.
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Theory

A hypothesis tested and confirmed as a general principle.
After years of research, her hypothesis finally became a recognized theory.
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Concept

An underlying theme or notion.
The main concept of the book revolves around redemption.
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Theory

A set of principles explaining a phenomenon.
His theory on economic cycles garnered much attention.
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Concept

An abstract idea.
Freedom is a cherished concept in many societies.
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Theory

A theory is a rational type of abstract thinking about a phenomenon, or the results of such thinking. The process of contemplative and rational thinking is often associated with such processes as observational study or research.
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Concept

A basic unit of thought.
It's a simple concept, yet many fail to grasp it.
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Theory

A set of statements or principles devised to explain a group of facts or phenomena, especially one that has been repeatedly tested or is widely accepted and can be used to make predictions about natural phenomena.
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Concept

Concepts are defined as abstract ideas or general notions that occur in the mind, in speech, or in thought. They are understood to be the fundamental building blocks of thoughts and beliefs.
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Theory

The branch of a science or art consisting of its explanatory statements, accepted principles, and methods of analysis, as opposed to practice
A fine musician who had never studied theory.
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Concept

An abstract idea
Structuralism is a difficult concept
The concept of justice
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Theory

A set of theorems that constitute a systematic view of a branch of mathematics.
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Concept

A general idea or understanding of something
The concept of inertia.
The concept of free will.
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Theory

Abstract reasoning; speculation
A decision based on experience rather than theory.
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Concept

A plan or original idea
The original concept was for a building with 12 floors.
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Theory

A belief or principle that guides action or assists comprehension or judgment
Staked out the house on the theory that criminals usually return to the scene of the crime.
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Concept

A unifying idea or theme, especially for a product or service
A new restaurant concept.
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Theory

An assumption based on limited information or knowledge; a conjecture.
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Concept

Having an experimental or strikingly different design, especially to test or demonstrate new features
A concept car.
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Theory

A description of an event or system that is considered to be accurate.
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Concept

An abstract and general idea; an abstraction.
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Theory

(sciences) A coherent statement or set of ideas that explains observed facts or phenomena and correctly predicts new facts or phenomena not previously observed, or which sets out the laws and principles of something known or observed; a hypothesis confirmed by observation, experiment etc.
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Concept

Understanding retained in the mind, from experience, reasoning and imagination; a generalization (generic, basic form), or abstraction (mental impression), of a particular set of instances or occurrences (specific, though different, recorded manifestations of the concept).
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Theory

(uncountable) The underlying principles or methods of a given technical skill, art etc., as opposed to its practice.
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Concept

(generic programming) A description of supported operations on a type, including their syntax and semantics.
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Theory

(mathematics) A field of study attempting to exhaustively describe a particular class of constructs.
Knot theory classifies the mappings of a circle into 3-space.
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Concept

To conceive; to dream up
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Theory

A hypothesis or conjecture.
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Concept

An abstract general conception; a notion; a universal.
The words conception, concept, notion, should be limited to the thought of what can not be represented in the imagination; as, the thought suggested by a general term.
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Theory

A set of axioms together with all statements derivable from them; or, a set of statements which are deductively closed. Equivalently, a formal language plus a set of axioms (from which can then be derived theorems). The statements may be required to all be bound (i.e., to have no free variables).
A theory is consistent if it has a model.
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Concept

An abstract or general idea inferred or derived from specific instances
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Theory

A doctrine, or scheme of things, which terminates in speculation or contemplation, without a view to practice; hypothesis; speculation.
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Theory

An exposition of the general or abstract principles of any science; as, the theory of music.
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Theory

The science, as distinguished from the art; as, the theory and practice of medicine.
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Theory

The philosophical explanation of phenomena, either physical or moral; as, Lavoisier's theory of combustion; Adam Smith's theory of moral sentiments.
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Theory

A well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world; an organized system of accepted knowledge that applies in a variety of circumstances to explain a specific set of phenomena;
Theories can incorporate facts and laws and tested hypotheses
True in fact and theory
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Theory

A tentative theory about the natural world; a concept that is not yet verified but that if true would explain certain facts or phenomena;
A scientific hypothesis that survives experimental testing becomes a scientific theory
He proposed a fresh theory of alkalis that later was accepted in chemical practices
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Theory

A belief that can guide behavior;
The architect has a theory that more is less
They killed him on the theory that dead men tell no tales
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Theory

An explanation based on evidence.
The theory of evolution is widely accepted in the scientific community.
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Theory

A speculative idea or assumption.
I have a theory about why he acted that way.
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Common Curiosities

Is every Theory derived from a Concept?

Theories are built upon multiple concepts, but not every concept necessarily becomes part of a theory.
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How is Theory different from Concept?

A Theory is an explanation based on evidence, while a Concept is an abstract idea.
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Do all Concepts need evidence?

No, Concepts are foundational ideas and don't necessarily require empirical evidence.
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What's a simple definition of Concept?

A Concept is a general idea or abstract principle.
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Are Theories always true?

No, Theories are based on current evidence and can be disproven or refined with new data.
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Can a Concept evolve into a Theory?

Yes, with enough evidence and testing, a Concept can develop into a Theory.
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Is a Theory more complex than a Concept?

Typically, yes. A Theory is a structured set of concepts, making it more multi-faceted.
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Can a Concept stand alone without a Theory?

Yes, Concepts can exist independently and don't always develop into or become part of a theory.
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Why are Theories important?

Theories provide comprehensive explanations for phenomena, guiding research, and understanding in various fields.
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How does one move from a Concept to a Theory?

Through systematic research, testing, and validation of concepts against empirical evidence.
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What's the relationship between Concept and Theory in research?

In research, Concepts serve as foundational elements, while Theories explain the interrelationship of these concepts.
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Are Concepts subjective?

Concepts can be influenced by cultural, social, or personal perspectives, making them sometimes subjective.
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Do Theories remain static?

No, Theories can evolve or be refined based on new evidence or changing perspectives.
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Can one understand a Theory without understanding its Concepts?

It's challenging. Grasping the underlying Concepts is essential to comprehend a Theory fully.
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Are Theories exclusive to science?

No, while prevalent in science, theories exist in many disciplines, including arts and humanities.
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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to askdifference.com. As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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