Sherry Willis, PhD

Personal Statement

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.

Education

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

Department Affiliations

Centers/Programs

Recent Publications

Disparities in First Instrumental Activity of Daily Living Difficulty between Black and White Older Adults: Findings from the Advanced Cognitive Training in Independent and Vital Elderly Study.
(2021 May 28)
J Aging Health
Feger DM, Willis SL, Deal J, Dean LT, Gross AL

Trajectories of Big Five Personality Traits: A Coordinated Analysis of 16 Longitudinal Samples.
(2020 May)
Eur J Pers 34(3): 301-321
Graham EK, Weston SJ, Gerstorf D, Yoneda TB, Booth T, Beam CR, Petkus AJ, Drewelies J, Hall AN, Bastarache ED, Estabrook R, Katz MJ, Turiano NA, Lindenberger U, Smith J, Wagner GG, Pedersen NL, Allemand M, Spiro A 3rd, Deeg DJH, Johansson B, Piccinin AM, Lipton RB, Schaie KW, Willis S, Reynolds CA, Deary IJ, Hofer SM, Mroczek DK

Is Healthy Neuroticism Associated with Health Behaviors? A Coordinated Integrative Data Analysis.
(2020)
Collabra Psychol 6(1):
Graham EK, Weston SJ, Turiano NA, Aschwanden D, Booth T, Harrison F, James BD, Lewis NA, Makkar SR, Mueller S, Wisniewski KM, Yoneda T, Zhaoyang R, Spiro A, Willis S, Schaie KW, Sliwinski M, Lipton RA, Katz MJ, Deary IJ, Zelinski EM, Bennett DA, Sachdev PS, Brodaty H, Trollor JN, Ames D, Wright MJ, Gerstorf D, Allemand M, Drewelies J, Wagner GG, Muniz-Terrera G, Piccinin AM, Hofer SM, Mroczek DK

Is Healthy Neuroticism Associated with Longevity? A Coordinated Integrative Data Analysis.
(2020)
Collabra Psychol 6(1):
Turiano NA, Graham EK, Weston SJ, Booth T, Harrison F, James BD, Lewis NA, Makkar SR, Mueller S, Wisniewski KM, Zhaoyang R, Spiro A, Willis S, Schaie KW, Lipton RB, Katz M, Sliwinski M, Deary IJ, Zelinski EM, Bennett DA, Sachdev PS, Brodaty H, Trollor JN, Ames D, Wright MJ, Gerstorf D, Muniz-Terrera G, Piccinin AM, Hofer SM, Mroczek DK

Application of neuropsychological criteria to classify mild cognitive impairment in the active study.
(2020 Nov)
Neuropsychology 34(8): 862-873
Thomas KR, Cook SE, Bondi MW, Unverzagt FW, Gross AL, Willis SL, Marsiske M

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