Psychology People Section header


« Return to list of Faculty

Susan Kemper

Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professor
Cognitive Psychology

Ph.D., 1978, Cornell University
Research Areas: Psychology of aging, Developmental Psychology

Related Links
Developmental Psychology Program
Language Across the Life Span
Doctoral Program in Child Language
Doctoral Program in Gerontology

Research Interests

I am a participating faculty member in the Gerontology Doctoral Program as well as in the Child Language Doctoral program in addition to those in Cognitive and DevelopmentalPsychology. My research interests cover the life span, focusing on the role of working memory in language processing by young and older adults and language acquisition by children. My "The Language Across the Lifespan Project" addresses how aging affects the processing of spoken and written language and includes comparative studies of healthy older adults and adults with Alzheimer's disease. My research ranges from studies of how older adults' memory affects their speech to studies of how to enhance older adults' comprehension through "elderspeak," a set of special speech modifications designed for older adults. Recently, I have established a eye tracking laboratory for age-comparative studies of reading and visual information processing. I have also turned to the use of dual-task procedures to study the effects of aging on language production and reading and listening comperhension, exploring age differences in the ability to do two things at once. Along with other researchers, I examined early language abilities as a predictor of late-life cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease as part of the Nun Study. My research has been supported by a series of grants from the National Institute on Aging, including a Research Career Development Award. I received the 2004 Master Mentor Award from the Retirement Research Foundation and the American Psychological Association, Division 20 (Adult Development), based on nominations from my doctoral and post-doctoral students.

Selected Publications

Snowdon, D. A., Kemper, S., Mortimer, J. A. Greiner, L. H. , Wekstein, D. R., Markesbery, W. R. (1996).  Cognitive ability in  early life and cognitive function and Alzheimer’s disease in  late life:  Findings from the Nun Study. Journal of the American Medical Association, 275, 528-532.

Kemper, S., & Harden, T. (1999). Experimentally Disentangling What’s Beneficial about Elderspeak from What's Not.  Psychology and Aging, 14, 656-670.

Kemper, S. (2000).  Over- and under-accommodations to aging.  In N. Charness, D. C. Parks, & B. A. Sabel (Eds.). Communication, Technology, and Aging.   Doylestown, PA:  Springer.

Kemper, S. & Sumner, A. (2001).  The structure of verbal abilities in young and older adults.  Psychology and Aging, 16, 312-322.

Kemper, S., Thompson, M., & Marquis, J. (2001).  Longitudinal change in language production:  Effects of aging and dementia on grammatical complexity and propositional content.  Psychology and Aging, 16, 600-614

Williams, K., Holmes, F., Kemper, S., & Marquis, J. (2003).  Written language clues to dementia: An analysis of the letters of King James VI/I.  Journal of Gerontology:  Psychological Sciences, 53, P42-P44.

Kemper, S., Herman, R. E., & Lian, C. H. T. (2003).  The Costs of Doing Two Things at Once for Young and Older Adults:  Talking while Walking, Finger Tapping, and Ignoring Speech or Noise.  Psychology and Aging, 18, 181-192

Kemper, S., Crow, A., & Kemtes, K. (2004).  Eye fixation patterns of high and low span young and older adults:  Down the garden path and back again.  Psychology and Aging, 19, 157-170.

Kemper, S., & Lacal, J. C. (2004).  Addressing the communication needs of an aging society.  In R. W. Pew & S. B. Van Hemel (Eds.), Technology for Adaptive Aging.  Washington, DC:  National Research Council.

Williams, K., Kemper, S., & Hummert, M. L. (2005).  Enhancing communication with older adults:  Overcoming elderspeak.  Journal of Psychosocial Nursing, 43, 2-6.

Kemper, S., Herman, R. E., Nartowicz, J.(2005).  Different effects of dual task demands on the speech of young and older adults.  Aging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition, 12, 340-358.

Kemper, S., McDowd, J., Pohl, P., Herman, R., & Jackson, S.  (2006).  Revealing language deficits following stroke:  the cost of doing two things at once.  Aging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition, 13, 115-139

Kemper, S., & McDowd, J. (2006).  Eye movements of young and older adults while reading with distraction.  Psychology and Aging, 21, 32-39.

Kemper, S. (2006).  Language in Adulthood.  In E. Bialystok & F. I. M. Craik (Eds.), Lifespan Cognition:  Mechanisms of Change. Oxford:  Oxford University Press.

Kemper, S., & Liu, C. – J.  (2007).  Eye movements of young and older adults during reading.  Psychology and Aging, 22, 84-94.

Kemper, S., & McDowd, J. (2008). Dimensions of Cognitive Aging:  Executive Function and Verbal Fluency.  In S. M. Hofer and D. F. Alwin (Eds.), Handbook of Cognitive Aging:  Interdisciplinary perspectives.  Thousand Oaks, CA:  Sage.

Kemper, S. (2009).  The role of working memory in language development over the life span.  In K. de Bot, S. Makoni, & R. Schrauf (Eds.), Language Development over the Life Span.  Mahwah, NJ:  Erlbaum.

Kemper, S., Bontempo, D., McKedy, W., Schmalzried, R., Tagliaferri, B., & Kieweg, D. (2010).  Tracking Sentence Planning and Production.  Journal of Gerontology:  Psychological Science, 66, 160-168.

McDowd, J., Hoffman, L., Rozek, E., Lyons, K., Pahwa, R., Burns, J. , & Kemper, S.  (2011). Understanding verbal fluency in healthy aging, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease.  Neuropsychologia, 25, 210-225.

Kemper, S., Hoffman, L., Schmalzried, R., Herman, R., & Kieweg, D. (2011).  Tracking Talking: Dual Task Costs of Planning and Producing Speech for Young versus Older Adults.  Aging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition, 18, 257-279.

Kemper, S., Bontempo, D., Herman, R., McKedy, W., Schmalzried, R., Tagliaferri, B., & Kieweg, D. (in press).  Tracking Reading:  Dual Task Costs while Reading. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research.  Rozek, E., Kemper, S., & McDowd, J. (in press).  Learning to Ignore Distracters. Psychology and Aging.

Kemper, S.  (to appear).  The effects of aging on language and communication.  In R. Peach & L. Shapiro (Eds.), Cognition and Acquired Language Disorders:  A process-oriented approach.  San Diego:  Elsevier

Kemper. S. (to appear).  The Interaction of Linguistic Constraints, Working Memory, and  Aging on Language Production and Comprehension.  In  M. Naveh-Ben

The University of Kansas prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, religion, sex, national origin, age, ancestry, disability, status as a veteran, sexual orientation, marital status, parental status, retaliation, gender identity, gender expression and genetic information in the University’s programs and activities. The following person has been designated to handle inquiries regarding the non-discrimination policies and is the University’s Title IX Coordinator: the Executive Director of the Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access,, 1246 W. Campus Road, Room 153A, Lawrence, KS, 66045, (785)864-6414, 711 TTY.