Marilyn Welsh


Degree:  Ph.D., 1983, UCLA, Developmental Psychology (minors in Cognitive and
Physiological Psychology)

My area of research:

My research program in developmental and cognitive neuropsychology is focused on examining the nature of executive function, the cognitive processes mediated by the prefrontal cortex. Executive functions include such processes as planning, working memory, inhibition, flexibility, and self-monitoring. Over the years, my research has explored these processes in typical and atypical populations, the construction and validation of new assessment tools, and the degree to which interventions can facilitate executive functions in children and adults. Some of my recent research has taken a very applied approach in which I have examined the effectiveness of a thinking skills curriculum, BrainWise, for improving executive functions in very vulnerable populations, including families living in poverty, high-risk adolescents attending alternative high schools, and homeless men living in transitional housing. My research with doctoral students in Educational Psychology has identified that executive functions do, indeed, relate to some very important real-world behaviors, such as academic self-efficacy and achievement, career exploration and decision making, and risk taking.

My most recent writing and research has focused on the concepts of “cool” and “hot” executive function, in collaboration with Dr. Eric Peterson. The “cool” version of executive function involves the manner in which we have traditionally tested executive function with decontextualized, laboratory tasks, under conditions with relatively little arousal, motivation, or emotion. Alternatively, the “hot” version of executive function pertains to testing these processes under more arousing conditions that may more closely parallel our engagement of executive function skills in the real world of school, work, peers and risky situations. We are pursuing a line of research in which we look at executive function in terms of the complex relationships among task, context and person (e.g., personality factors). We are also interested in whether there are individual differences among students in executive processes that may be predictive of their progress in college and beyond.

Some of my research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation.

My teaching philosophy:

I strive to teach content-rich classes that combine both lecture and discussion formats.  My goal is to link the topic area, whether it is research methods or child psychology, to current issues in society, as well as to provide students with the practical, critical thinking skills to make informed decisions about their own lives.  The courses I teach typically are:  Introduction to Research Methods, Advanced Research Methods, Human Growth and Development, Child and Adolescent Psychology, Developmental Disabilities and Psychopathology, as well as graduate-level courses on development.

My latest professional activity:

  • Peterson, E., & Welsh, M.C. (2014). Formative Versus Reflective Measurement in Executive Functions: A Critique of Willoughby et al., Measurement: Interdisciplinary Research and Perspectives, 12, 169-172, DOI: 10.1080/15366367.2014.978665
  • Welsh, M.C., & Peterson, E. (2014). Issues in the conceptualization and assessment of hot executive functions in childhood. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, 20, 1-5, doi:10.1017/S1355617713001379
  • · Schmitt-Wilson, S., & Welsh, M.C. (2013). Executive Function, Identity, and Career Decision Making in College Students, Sage Open.
  • · Peterson, E. & Welsh, M.C.. (2013). The Development of Hot and Cold Executive Functions: Are We Getting Warmer? To appear in S. Goldstein & J. Naglieri (Eds.), Executive Functioning Handbook, Springer Books.
  • · Schmitt-Wilson, S., & Welsh, M.C. (2012). Vocational knowledge in rural children: A study of individual differences and predictors of occupational aspirations and expectations. Learning and Individual Differences, 22(6), 862-867.
  • · Salnaitis, C. L., Baker, C. A., Holland, J., Welsh, M. C. (2011). Differentiating Tower of Hanoi performance: Interactive effects of psychopathic tendencies, impulsive response styles, and modality. Applied Neuropsychology, 18, 37-46.
  • Ketelson, K., & Welsh, M.C. (2010). Working Memory and Mental Arithmetic: A Case for Dual Central Executive Resources. Brain and Cognition, 74(3), 203-209.
  • De Roche, K, & Welsh, M.C. (2008). Twenty-Five Years of Research on Neurocognitive Outcomes in Early-treated Phenylketonuria: Intelligence and Executive Function. Developmental Neuropsychology, 33, 474-504.

Juried presentations

  • Kirkland, R., Peterson, E., Welsh, M.C., Tienvieri, St. (2015). Evidence of declining implicit mental state understanding during aging. Poster to be presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Society, New York, NY.
  • Welsh, M.C., Peterson, E., Williams, D., Rohrbacher, C., LaFary, K., Blanchard, L., & Renshaw, S. (2015). “Turning Up the Heat:” Associations between Individual Differences in Personality and Temperament and Executive Function Performance. Poster to be presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Society, New York, NY.
  • Rohrbacher, C., Welsh, M.C., Peterson, E., Williams, D.,LaFary, K., Blanchard, L., & Renshaw, S. (2015). Experimental Evidence Demonstrates that Incentivizing the Testing Context “Heats” Traditional Cool Executive Function Tasks. Poster to be presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Society, New York, NY.
  • Baker, C., Welsh, M.C., Peterson, E., & Kole, J. (2015). Musical Working Memory in Musicians and Non-musicians within Baddeley’s Multicomponent Working Memory Model. Poster presented at the annual meeting of the International Neuropsychological Society, Denver, CO. Winner of the Laird Cermack Award for the best memory research presented at the Denver conference, 2015.
  • Welsh, M.C., Gorman Barry, P., Cooper, L, & Beddes (2015). Homeless Men in Transitional Housing Receiving the BrainWise Curriculum: Baseline Data on Executive Functions, Problem Solving and Coping Self-Efficacy. Poster presented at the annual meeting of the International Neuropsychological Society, Denver, CO.
  • Welsh, M.C., & C. Rohrbacher (2015). Executive Functions and Hypothetical Risk-Taking as Predictors of Developmental Tasks in Emerging Adulthood: Academic Self-Efficacy and Career Decision Making. Poster presented at the annual meeting of the International Neuropsychological Society, Denver, CO.