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Carol Gilligan

Groundbreaking Psychologist

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Carol Gilligan on noticing the male bias in psychology and her seminal book, "A Different Voice."
Carol Gilligan is a revolutionary psychologist and writer. She has authored many books and papers including her landmark work, In A Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women’s Development, which transformed psychological theory and feminist thinking.   Gilligan was born in New York City in 1936, and graduated summa cum laude from Swarthmore College in 1958. She received a master’s degree in clinical psychology from Radcliffe College in 1960, and a Ph.D. in social psychology from Harvard in 1964. She returned to Harvard to teach in 1968, working under renowned psychology theorists Erik Ericson and Lawrence Kohlberg.   Although her work with Kohlberg generated a great deal of praise, Gilligan soon became disillusioned with the male-centered focus of his research. Gilligan began to question Kohlberg’s theory that a masculine, “rule-based” moral philosophy was primary and superior to a feminine, “relationship-based” moral philosophy.   She soon outlined an alternative approach to moral development in a paper that became her first book, In a Different Voice, published in 1982. In A Different Voice became a seminal text for both psychologists and feminists by arguing that men and women employ very different but equally valuable approaches to moral behavior and that these differences should be nourished rather than neglected. Her follow up research on girls’ development identified the dramatic drop-off in self-esteem and mental health as girls enter adolescence. The study inspired the Ms. Foundation’s popular annual campaign, “Take Our Daughters to Work Day,” begun in 1993 (now “Take Our Sons and Daughters to Work Day”).   Gilligan is now considered one of the most influential feminist thinkers in America. In addition to her prolific writings, she initiated the Harvard Project on Women’s Psychology and Girls’ Development and became Harvard’s first professor of Gender Studies in 1997. In 2002, she began teaching at New York University.

More From Carol

Deciding to Write
Gilligan explains how she ended up writing her groundbreaking book,"A Different Voice."

Where Girls Fall Off
Gilligan's groundbreaking research uncovered the typical ages when girls' psychic well-being plummets.

11-Year-Olds in the Workplace
Gilligan on "Take Our Daughters to Work Day" which grew out of her research on girls.

The Trouble Years for Boys
After discovering the key years that girls' confidence and mental health plummets, Gilligan realized there was an equivalent stage for boys.

Validated by Neuroscience
Gilligan explains how her novel descriptions of healthy psychology has since been backed up by neuroscience.

Pieces of a Bigger Puzzle
Gilligan discusses how her work in the 1970s connected to the larger social and academic women's movement.

An Only Child’s Aspiration
Gilligan's greatest aspiration growning up was not a professional goal.

Ellis Island to the White House
Gilligan reflects on how far she's come, only two generations after her ancestors immigrated to the U.S.

Male Colleague Blow Back
Gilligan describes the defensive reponse to her work by many of her close, famous male colleagues.

Jake & Amy
The two children who appear in "A Different Voice," demonstrate the shortcomings of traditional moral theory.

Women’s Secret Voice
Gilligan talks about the suppressed female voice that can be found in everything from "Jane Eyre" to her conversations with women today.