Professor Terry Gottfried has gained a reputation around the psychology department as “Mr. Interdisciplinary.” Specializing in cognitive psychology and speech science, his interests also lie in language, music, and gender studies.As a child, Gottfried loved language, even making up countries so that he could make up languages for them, although never writing an epic fantasy.
“While I am a geek,” he said,” I’m not that much of a geek.”
He did however write a report about the history of the English language in the fourth grade and was very excited to learn French in the fifth grade. Always a fan of music, he briefly considered becoming a composer until discovering that he probably wouldn’t make much money on this career path.
At the University of Minnesota, he majored in French literature. While a sophomore, he decided to look for a new major. Flipping through a course catalog, he used the process of elimination to decide on psychology.
“Like many other undergrad psych majors, I thought ‘I’ll do psych and help people.'”
In his studies, he found the “tedious” classes to be the most fun, and decided to go into experimental psychology.
After getting his Ph.D. from Minnesota, he taught at SUNY-Purchase. The college was known for its Liberal Arts and Fine arts programs and its attempts to integrate the two. While he thought the school was great place, he was disappointed because “there was not as much of a community between scholars that artists.”
After getting married, he took a year off and lived in Boston and decided to look for a new job. Lawrence came up and he started his research. Attracted by the Conservatory, the strong language department, and the fact that it was cheaper to live in Appleton, he began teaching here in 1986.
Gottfried’s research centers on second language acquisition and how it affects the perception of sounds. Currently he is working with Lucy Xu to discover how native Mandarin Chinese speakers recognize sounds and how non-native speakers recognize these sounds.
A part of his study also focuses on the relationship between speech perception and musical ability. He found that musicians seem to have an advantage when recognizing the differences in tones.
“This finding is gratifying,” he said, “but music is important on its own. It is part of being human and worth knowing for its own sake.”
Gottfried sings baritone in the White Heron Choral and also in the choir ate First United Methodist church. He mostly listens to classical music and through his son he has gotten into classic rock, with some exceptions.
“I don’t like AC/DC. It hurts my ears and my throat to listen to that guy sing.” Musical theater is a guilty pleasure for Gottfried.
Other than music, he bakes and is always trying to read something. He recently read Little Children by Tom Perrotta, and enjoys mystery novels by P.D. James. He has also read all the Harry Potter books, some of them twice. Currently he is reading Matt Ridley’s The Agile Gene in preparation for second term Freshman Studies, a favorite class of his.
“It’s all about what I like. Psychology is cool, but it’s not everything. It makes things within your disciple better, besides being pretty damn fun.