Carol Gilligan

From Academic Kids

Carol Gilligan is an American feminist ethicist best known for her work with and against Lawrence Kohlberg on ethical community and ethical relationships, and certain subject-object problems in ethics.

Her fame rests primarily on In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women's Development (1982) in which she criticized Kohlberg's research on the moral development of children, which at the time showed that girls on average reached a lower level of moral development than boys did. She claimed that the results of Kohlberg were biased because the participants in the basic study were largely male, and that the scoring method subsequently used tended to favor a principled way of reasoning that was more common to boys, over a moral argumentation concentrating on relations, which would be more amenable to girls.

Her work formed the basis for what has become known as the ethics of care, a theory of ethics that contrasts ethics of care to so-called ethics of justice.

She has been popularly acclaimed, but criticized for the soundness of her psychological studies. In particular, Christina Hoff Sommers, in her book "The War Against Boys" notes that the "In a Different Voice" studies did not follow standard research protocol. Gilligan used small samples, her findings were not peer reviewed, and decades later, Gilligan has continued to resist letting other researchers see her data. However, Kohlberg did see reason to revise his scoring methods as a result of Gilligan's critique, after which boys and girls scored evenly.

She is a graduate of Swarthmore College.

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