Sherry L. Willis, Ph.D.

1972, University of Texas at AustinSherry L. Willis

Professor of Human Development

114-G Henderson
(814) 863-9735
slw@psu.edu

Research Interests

I am a life-span developmental psychologist with a primary focus on cognitive development in middle adulthood and aging. My major research interest is on how cognitive functioning changes across the adult lifespan - including both basic cognitive abilities and everyday problem solving. There are three foci to my research:

First, I have conducted a number of cognitive intervention studies in adulthood and old age. I am currently one of the principal investigators on ACTIVE, a national randomized clinical trial of cognitive interventions, funded by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and the National Institute of Nursing Research. While early cognitive training studies were concerned with enhancing basic mental abilities, the primary aim of ACTIVE is to maintain or enhance everyday functioning in the elderly.

Second, my research is focusing increasingly on middle age. I have recently edited two books on various aspects of midlife development. There is increasing support that cognitive functioning in midlife is an important precursor both for successful aging and for cognitive impairment in old age. I am Principal Investigator on a recently funded NIA 5-year project to examine factors in midlife, including cognition, demographics, health, cognitively stimulating everyday activities and biomarkers, that are associated with either cognitive impairment in old age or with above average functioning in old age. The project will also involve study of structural changes in brain volume.

A third research interest is the role of cognition in everyday functioning. My students and I have developed several measures of everyday problem solving and have studied change in ability to perform instrumental activities of daily living from young adulthood to old age. We are also examining whether cognitive training is effective in enhancing and maintaining competence in everyday activities.

Current Research Projects

Midlife Cognitive Change and Risk of Cognitive Decline. National Institute on Aging, 2005-2010. (Principal Investigator)

Seattle Longitudinal Study. National Institute on Aging. (Co-Investigator)

Advanced Cognitive Training in Vital Elderly (ACTIVE). National Institute on Aging and National Institute of Nursing Research, 2005 - (Principal Investigator of PSU Site).

National Institute on Aging Predoctoral Training Grant. National Institute on Aging (submitted), (Director)

Education

  • Memphis State University, Memphis, TN, B.S., 1969, Education
  • University of Texas at Austin, Ph.D., 1972, Ed. Psychology

Research and Professional Experience

  • 1972-1978: Assistant Professor of Human Development, The Pennsylvania State University
  • 1978-1986: Associate Professor of Human Development, The Pennsylvania State University
  • 1986-Present Professor of Human Development, The Pennsylvania State University
  • 1988 Visiting Professor, Institute of Gerontology, University of Michigan
  • 1989 Visiting Scientist, Institute of Human Development, University of California at Berkeley.
  • 1995 Fulbright Fellowship, Gerontology Research Center, Lund, Sweden
  • 1998 Visiting Scholar, Max Planck, Berlin
  • 2001 Faculty, NIH Summer Training Institute for Randomized Clinical Trials Involving Behavioral Interventions. Airlie Conference Center, Warrenton, VA
  • 2002 Faculty, NIH Summer Training Institute for Randomized Clinical Trials Involving Behavioral Interventions. Airlie Conference Center, Warrenton, VA
  • 2002 Visiting Scientist, University of Geneva, Switzerland
  • 2003 Faculty, NIH Summer Training Institute for Randomized Clinical Trials Involving Behavioral Interventions. Airlie Conference Center, Warrenton, VA

Honors

  • Fellow, American Psychological Association, Division 15
  • Fellow, American Psychological Association, Division 20
  • Fellow, Gerontological Society of America
  • Fellow, American Psychological Society
  • Pattishall Distinguished Research Award (1992)
  • President, Division 20, Adult Development and Aging, American Psychological Association (1993-1994)
  • Faculty Scholar Medal for Outstanding Achievement, The Pennsylvania State University (1999)
  • Pauline Schmitt Russell Distinguished Research Career Award, College of Health and Human Development, The Pennsylvania State University (2001)
  • National Institute on Aging, MERIT Award (2005)

Selected Publications

  • Kennet, J., McGuire, L., Willis, S. L., & Schaie, K. W. (2000). Memorability functions in verbal memory: A longitudinal approach. Experimental Aging Research, 26, 121-137.
  • Maitland, S. B., Intrieri, R. C., Schaie, K. W., & Willis, S. L. (2000). Gender differences and cognitive abilities across the adult life span. Aging, Neuropsychology & Cognition, 7, 1-22.
  • Schaie, K. W., & Willis, S. L. (2000). A stage theory model of adult cognitive development revisited. In B. Rubinstein, M. Moss, & M. Kleban (Eds.), The many dimensions of aging: Essays in honor of M. Powell Lawton (pp. 173-191). New York: Springer.
  • Willis, S. L. (2000). Driving competence: The Person x Environment Fit. In K. W. Schaie & M. Pietrucha (Eds). Mobility and Transportation in the elderly. (pp. 269-278) New York: Springer.
  • Schaie, K. W., Nguyen, H. T., Willis, S. L., Dutta, R., & Yue, G. A. (2001). Environmental factors as a conceptual framework for examining cognitive performance in Chinese adults. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 25, 193-202.
  • Willis, S. L. (2001). Methodological issues in behavioral intervention research with the elderly. In J. E. Birren & K. W. Schaie (Eds.), Handbook of the psychology of aging, 5th ed. (pp. 78-108). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
  • Willis, S. L., & Margrett, J. A. (2001) Aging and education. In N. J. Smelser & P. B. Baltes (Eds.), The international encyclopedia of the social and behavioral sciences (299-304). Oxford, UK: Elsevier Science Ltd.
  • Jobe, J. B., Smith, K., Tennstedt, S. L., Marsiske, M., Willis, S. L., Rebok, G. W., Morris, J. N., Helmers, K., Leveck, M. D., Kleinman, K. (2001). ACTIVE: A cognitive intervention trial to promote independence in older adults. Controlled Clinical Trials, 4, 453-479
  • Saczynski, J. S., Willis, S. L, & Schaie, K. W. (2002). Strategy use in reasoning training with older adults. Aging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition, 9, 48-60.
  • Allen-Burge, R., Welsh, D. L., Willis, S. L., & Schaie, K. W. (2002). The aging personality and self: Diversity and health issues. In R. Tallis, H. Fillit, & J. C. Brocklehurst (Eds.), Geriatric medicine and gerontology (2nd ed.) (pp. 143-153). Edinburgh, UK: Churchill Livingstone.
  • Ball, K., Berch, D. B., Helmers, K. F., Jobe, J. B., Leveck, M.D., Marsiske, M., Morris, J. N., Rebok, G. W., Smith, D. M., Tennstedt, S. L., Unverzaat, F. W., & Willis, S. L. (2002). Effects of cognitive training interventions with older adults. Journal of American Medical Association. JAMA, Vol. 288, No. 18, 2271-2281).
  • Kramer, A. F. & Willis, S. L. (2002). Enhancing the cognitive vitality of older adults. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 11, 173-177.
  • Willis, S. L. (2003). Programmatic interventions with the older driver: A conceptual framework. In K. W. Schaie, H. -Wahl, & H. Mollenkop (Eds.), Aging in the community: Living arrangements and mobility. (pp. 263-278) New York: Springer.
  • Diehl, M. & Willis, S. L. (2003). Everyday competence and everyday problem solving in aging adults: The role of physical and social context. In H. W. Wahl, R. Scheidt, & P. Windley (Eds). Annual review of gerontology and geriatrics. Vol. 23. Aging in context: Socio-physical environments (pp. 130-166). New York: Springer.
  • Kramer, A. F. & Willis, S. L. (2003). Cognitive plasticity and aging. In B. Ross (Ed). The Psychology of Learning and Motivation, Vol. 43: (pp. 267-302). New York: Academic Press.
  • Caskie, I. L. & Willis, S. L. (2004). Congruence of self-reported medications with pharmacy prescription records in low-income older adults. Gerontologist, 44, 176-185.
  • Saczynski, J. S., Margrett, J. M., & Willis S. L. (2004). Older Adults' Strategic Behavior: Effects of Individual versus Collaborative Cognitive Training. Educational Gerontology. 30, 587-610
  • Schaie, K. W., Willis, S. L., & Caskie, G. I. L., (2004). The Seattle Longitudinal Study: Relationship Between Personality and Cognition. Aging, Neuropsychology and Cognition. 11, 304-324
  • Kramer, A. & Willis, S. (2004) Enhancing the cognitive vitality of older adults. In J. Lerner & A. E. Alberts (Eds). Developmental Psychology Reader. New York: Prentice Hall
  • Willis, S. L. (2004). Technology and learning in current and future elder cohorts. In R. Pew and S. Van Hemel (Eds). Technology for adaptive aging. (pp. 209-229). Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press
  • Diehl, M, Marsiske, M. Horgas, A. L., Rosenbert, A., Saczynski, J., Willis, S. L., (2005). The revised observed tasks of daily living: A performance-based assessment of everyday problem solving in older adults, Journal of Applied Gerontology, 24, 211-230.
  • Schaie, K. W., Caskie, G. I. L., Revell, A. J., Willis, S. L., Kaszniak, A. W., & Teri, L. (2005). Extending neuropsychological assessment into the Primary Mental Ability space. Aging, Neuropsychology and Cognition, 12, 1-33.
  • Schaie, K. W., Willis, S. L. & Boron, J. (2005) Everyday competence. In M. Johnson (Ed). The Cambridge Handbook of Age and Ageing. London: Cambridge University Press.
  • Schaie, K. W., Willis, S. L. & Pennak, S. (2005). A historical framework for cohort differences in intelligence. Research in Human Development, 2, 43-67.
  • Willis, S. L., & Schaie, K. W. (2005). Cognitive trajectories in midlife and cognitive functioning in old age. In S. L. Willis & M. Martin (Eds.). Middle adulthood: A lifespan perspective (pp. 243-276). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  • Schaie, K. W., & Willis, S. L. (2005). Intellectual functioning in adulthood: Growth, maintenance, decline and modifiability. Washington, D.C.: American Society on Aging and Metlife Foundation.
  • Schaie, K. W., Boron, J. B., & Willis, S. L. (2005). Intellectual competence. In M. L. Johnson (Ed.). Cambridge handbook of age and ageing (pp, 216-228)Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
  • Allaire, J. and Willis, S. L. (2005). Everyday activities as a predictor of cognitive and mortality. Aging, Neuropsychology and Cognition
  • Willis, S. L. & Schaie, K. W, (2006). Cognitive functioning in the Baby Boomers: Longitudinal and cohort effects. In S. K. Whitbourne & S. L. Willis, (Eds.). The Baby Boomers Grow up. (pp. 205-234) New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  • Willis, S. L., & Schaie, K. W. (2006).A co-constructionist view of the third age: The case of cognition. Annual Review of Gerontology and Geriatrics, 26, 131-152.
  • Willis, S. L., (2006). Technology and learning in current and future generations of elders. (pp. 44-48) Generations
  • Caskie, G. I. L., Willis, S. L., Zanjani, F. A. K., & Schaie K. W. (2006). Congruence of medication information from pharmacy records and brown bag data. Experimental Aging Research. 32, 79-103.
  • Schaie, K. W. and Willis, S. L. (2006). Cohort Differences in Rate of Change in Cognition for Third Age Elders: Seattle Longitudinal Study. In P. Wink and J. James (Eds). Charting a new life stage; Third Age. New York: Springer.
  • Zanjani, A. I. K., Schaie, K. W., & Willis, S. L. (2006). Age group and health status effects on health behavior change. Preventive Medicine, 32, 36-46.
  • Margrett, J. A., & Willis, S. L. (In press). Everyday problem solving. In D. Ekerdt, The Macmillan Encyclopedia of Aging. New York: Macmillan Reference.
  • Margrett, J. A. and Willis, S. L. (in press). In-Home Cognitive Training with Older Married Couples: Individual versus Collaborative Learning. . Aging, Neuropsychology and Cognition
  • Boron, J. B., Willis, S. L., & Schaie, K. W. (In press). Cognitive training gain as a predictor of mental status. Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences.

Books

  • Peters, D., & Willis, S. L. (1978). Early childhood. Monterey, CA: Brooks/Cole.
  • Brophy, J., & Willis, S. L. (1981). Human Development: A psychosocial approach. New York: St. Martin's Press
  • Schaie, K. W., & Willis, S. L. (1986). Adult development and aging, (2nd ed.). Boston: Little Brown.
  • Willis, S. L., & Dubin, S. S. (1990). Contemporary approaches to professional updating. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass
  • Schaie, K. W., & Willis, S. L. (1991). Adult development and aging (3rd ed.). New York: Harper & Row
  • Schaie, K. W., & Willis, S. L. (1996). Adult development and aging, (4th ed.) New York: HarperCollins.
  • Willis, S. L., Schaie, K. W., & Hayward, M. (1997). Societal mechanisms for maintaining competence in old age. New York: Springer Publishing Co.
  • Willis, S. L., & Reid, J. D. (1999). Life in the middle. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
  • Schaie, K. W., & Willis, S. L. (2001). Psyhologija odrase dobi I starenja [Psychology of adult development and aging]. Jastrebarsko, Croatia: Naklada Slap.
  • Schaie, K. W., & Willis, S. L. (2002). Adult development and aging (5th ed.). New York: Prentice-Hall.
  • Schaie, K. W., Leventhal, H., & Willis, S. L. (2002). Social structures and effective health behaviors in the elderly. New York: Springer.
  • Willis, S. L. & Martin, M. (Ed) (2005). Middle Adulthood: A Lifespan Perspective. Thousand Oaks: Sage.
  • Whitbourne, S. & Willis, S. L. (Eds) (2006) The baby boomers grow up: Contemporary perspectives on midlife. Mahwah NJ: Erlbaum.