Thaddeus L. Bolton Professor of Psychology, Emeritus

Willis Overton
824 Weiss Hall
1701 N. 13th Street
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19122



Developmental Science, Developmental Theory, Cognitive Development


Willis F. Overton is the Thaddeus Lincoln Bolton Professor of Psychology, Emeritus. He works in the fields of Developmental and Clinical Psychology. He is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association in Division 7 (Developmental), Division 12 (Clinical), and Division 20 (Adult Development & Aging). His orientation in Developmental Science and Developmental Psychopathology entails a focus on relational person-oriented embodied action approaches to development. A number of his writings focus on the articulation of philosophical, metatheoretical (e.g., relational developmental systems), and methodological assumptions that ground and contextualize alternative conceptions of development, cognition, personality and the nature of scientific inquiry.

Following several years of service in the U.S. Marine Corps, Professor Overton received his university education at Boston University where he was awarded his B. A. (magna cum laude) and M.A. in psychology. He received his Ph.D. from Clark University where he was trained in Developmental and Clinical Psychology. Prior to joining the Temple faculty in 1972 as Director of the Division of Developmental Psychology he taught in the Psychology Department at SUNY/Buffalo. He has also taught in a number of European countries including Czechoslovak, Germany, The Netherlands, Poland, and Switzerland. In 1982 he was awarded a prestigious Lindback Foundation Award for distinguished teaching. Professor Overton served as chair of the psychology department at Temple University from 2000-2006. His clinical work has included supervision of psychological interns at Pennsylvania and, until its closing, he was Senior Research Scientist at The Institute of Pennsylvania Hospital.

Professor Overton is a past President of the Jean Piaget Society and currently President of the Society for the Study of Human Development. After a number of years on the Board of Directors of the Jean Piaget Society, he is currently an honorary member of that Board. He was Editor of Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development from 1999-2006. He was Associate Editor of the journal Developmental Psychology for several years, and has served on numerous editorial boards including Child Development , Cognitive Development, Development & Psychopathology , Human Development , Journal of Experimental Child Psychology , Journal of Adult Development , Journal of Research on Adolescents , International Journal of Behavioral Development , and Psychological Inquiry . He was also a member of the NIH Developmental Behavioral Sciences Study Section, and has served on many committees of the American Psychological Association, the Society for Research in Child Development, and the Jean Piaget Society.

Selected Publications

  • Overton, W. F. (in Press). Relational developmental systems and developmental science: A focus on methodology. In Molenaar, P. C. M., Lerner, R. M., & Newell, K. (Eds.). Handbook of Developmental Systems Theory and Methodology. New York, NY: Guilford
  • Overton, W. F. (2013). A New Paradigm for Developmental Science: Relationism and Relational-Developmental-Systems. Applied Developmental Science, 17:2, 94-107.
  • Overton, W. F. & Lerner, R. M. (2012). Relational Developmental Systems: Paradigm for developmental science in the post-genomic era. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 35, 375-376.
  • Overton, W. F. (Ed). (2010) Cognition, biology, and methods across the lifespan. Volume 1 of the Handbook of life-span development. Editor-in-chief: R. M. Lerner. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
  • Ricco, R. & Overton, W. F. (2011). Dual systems competence - procedural processing: A relational developmental systems approach to reasoning. Developmental Review, 31, 119-150.
  • Overton, W. F. (2006). Developmental psychology: Philosophy, concepts, methodology. In R. M. Lerner (Ed.) Theoretical models of human development. Volume 1 of the Handbook of child psychology (pp. 18-88). (6th ed.), Editor-in-Chief: William Damon; Richard M. Lerner. New York: Wiley.

Courses Taught

  • Developmental Psychology
  • Theories of Development
  • History and Systems of Psychology
  • Introductory Psychology
  • The Development of Mind