Carol Gilligan on Becoming a Psychologist
In 2002, Carol Gilligan became University Professor at New York University, with affiliations in the School of Law, the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. She is currently teaching a seminar at the Law School on Resisting Injustice and an advanced research seminar on The Listening Guide Method of Psychological Inquiry. She is a visiting professor at the University of Cambridge affiliated with the Centre for Gender Studies and with Jesus College.
She received an A.B. in English literature from Swarthmore College, a masters degree in clinical psychology from Radcliffe College and a Ph.D. in social psychology from Harvard University. Her landmark book In A Different Voice (1982) is described by Harvard University Press as "the little book that started a revolution." Following In A Different Voice, she initiated the Harvard Project on Women's Psychology and Girls' Development and co-authored or edited 5 books with her students.
She received a Senior Research Scholar award from the Spencer Foundation, a Grawemeyer Award for her contributions to education, a Heinz Award for her contributions to understanding the human condition and was named by Time Magazine as one of the 25 most influential Americans.
She was a member of the Harvard faculty for over 30 years and in 1997 became Harvard's first professor of Gender Studies, occupying the Patricia Albjerg Graham chair.
Question: How did you first get into psychology?
Carol Gilligan: I was in English major at college and when I graduated from college, I applied to go to England and study Shakespeare and I applied to go to graduate school and study psychology and you could think of it as two ways of studying the same thing, which is the human world and I almost went to England, but instead I went to graduate school, initially in clinical Psychology, because I thought I want to be therapist. Then I got married, fell in love, got married had a child and thought I don’t want to basically, I guess leave my children and take care of other people children sort of thing. So, I actually then got my degree in social psychology and for a while I was a modern dancer and involved in the civil rights movement doing voter registration.
Question: What was your first study?
Carol Gilligan: I did a study on how people thought about turning points in there lives, I mean remember I was at literature student, so I was interested in that kind of thing. You come to a cross roads in which way do you go, and my study this was the early 70s was originally on “Harvard Students College”, students facing the Vietnam draft. I was interested in how people thought about themselves at those moments in life where you say, “What am I going to do?” and also when people ask question of themselves “What should I do or what is the right thing to do?” Very grounded, so anyway that was my study and I was working with some graduate students who I was teaching part time at Harvard. And then President Nixon ended the draft and the Supreme Court in Roby Wade legalized abortion. So, my draft study ended, but I had another study where people made a choice. So, I started interviewing people who are pregnant and thinking about abortion. I was completely bond to the fact that my first study was all man and second study was all women, I mean wasn’t even thinking about that. So, I started listening to women I would say other women, talking about themselves and what their understanding of how you make difficult decisions in life and I heard a descendants between the women’s voices in psychology, I had been teaching, I have been teaching with there Erickson and teaching Ford and teaching with Lions Cobber, I am teaching Peache [phonetic] and the women’s voices where different and then I realized why it was so hard for a women to be heard in the public discussion and then I have realized that the Psychology I was teaching have been based on either of the assumption that human was a man or studies have only man, and I hadn’t seen it, no one had seen it, what seen it is significant and then I got hooked. I knew that is it. So, it is out of that experience that I really in a different force, which is how the conversation would change if it included all those voices that had been left out including half the population of women.
Carol Gilligan discusses her transition from literature to psychology.