Introducing Visiting Professor: Anne Gilman

By DaEun Jung '21

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“I think little children understand language before they can produce it. Language skills...come from our own life experience.”

Anne Gilman grew up outside the city of Austin and dreamt of painting airplanes in colorful patterns as a child. Now, she is a visiting professor of psychology and linguistics at Bennington College.

Anne has earned a Master’s Degree in Linguistics at the University of Texas and a Ph.D. in Psychology at the University of New Hampshire. Previously, she has taught at Juniata College, Iona College, Brittin College, and a few other institutions. Some of her publications include Proceedings of the 38th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society and Does level of detail influence the picture superiority effect? Anne has done service projects at Juniata College to support religious tolerance. Some of Anne’s other service works are General Electric Community Outreach and UNH Strategic Planning Working Group.

Although new to Bennington College, Anne is very enthusiastic to share her thoughts  on Bennington and its students. She says, “I like working with students who are taking initiative in their own learning.”

Anne is currently is doing a pilot study, a small piece of research to get feedback from others. She’s collaborating with a professor at UMass to do research, outreach, and building community standards. The purpose of the project is to investigate perception and language and/or perception in cognition through ethical research. “By ‘ethical research’ I mean trying to encourage subjects to willingly participate and also make sure that this research will make them aware of the costs and benefits that they will face when they choose to participate in [it]” says Anne.

Anne finds this ethical issue critical because often times researchers will force participants to take part in an experiment “in the name of science” and not warn them about the costs that they will face. And she plans to accomplish this ethical way of conducting research by having local teens from Pittsfield to reach out to the elders in their community by through personal interviews. Anne hopes to involve Bennington students in this project  to help these high schoolers create and conduct these interviews. By thinking through the process of conducting ethical research, Anne also hopes to get more diverse populations to take part in this research.

When asked the question: “What are some aspects about linguistics that normal/regular people should know about?,”,Anne responded, “I think little children understand language before they can produce it. Language skills are something that develop in school, but come from our own life experience.”

Anne is also willing to give some advice to her students who are taking her two classes. For the students taking Psychology of Language, she hoped her students “understand how language works and how people use it in ordinary and in clinical situations.” For those taking the Cognitive Neuroscience of Preference and Liking Class, Anne hoped they would have “an understanding of the core brain processes that we rely on to appreciate a painting or a piece of music.”

Another thing that Anne is enthusiastic about is her upcoming pop-up course in the spring term. Anne mentioned that the course will be happening on Mondays and Tuesdays. It will be about a man who got fired because he said that women can’t be good engineers. She stated that the important focus of this course would be “the idea that when you believe a claim, you need to look at the context of of the claim.”

Anne is not only passionate about her research and her work, but also about sharing what she has acquired through her experiences with her students. She is both professional and vigorous, but can also be warm and casual at times. The interview bookends as follows:

“ I actually got new lights up yesterday on my wall. Do you see it?”– asked Anne.

“Yeah, very nice. What color is it?”– I responded.

“Hmm, something like jewel-term? My son picked them out for me.”– remarked Anne.

“Alright, thanks Anne. It was nice talking to you.”– I said.

“You bet!”– exclaimed Anne.