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Michael Willoughby



PhD, Developmental Psychology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

BS, Psychology, Indiana University

Michael Willoughby, PhD, is an expert in the development of self-regulation in children, with an emphasis on executive functions (cognitive abilities that are involved in the control and coordination of information in the service of goal-directed activities). He is involved in the development and psychometric evaluation of performance-based measures of executive function. His work is also focused on developmental causes, course, and consequences of individual differences in executive function, with a specific interest in how executive function skills support children’s transition to elementary school readiness and their risk for disruptive behavior disorders.

Currently, Dr. Willoughby leads the Coding and Programming in Elementary School project, which is evaluating the impacts of an educational robotics program on children’s fluid cognitive skills. He also leads the Computer Games for Learning Study, which is evaluating an individualized, computer-based social skills program. He previously led a project to develop and rigorously evaluate a computerized assessment of executive functions for use with preschool-aged children. He has been a principal investigator, co-investigator, and methodologist on grants funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the Institute of Educational Sciences.

Dr. Willoughby maintains an appointment of Research Professor in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Get To Know Dr. Willoughby

Dr. Willoughby shared his experience at his first job, what drew him to early childhood development, and the best thing about working at RTI.

My first job after getting my undergraduate degree involved working as a counselor and research assistant in a summer treatment program for children with ADHD at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. I saw firsthand how research could improve children’s lives, and how working with children informed new research questions. This experience was my impetus for applying to graduate school.

I am fascinated by children’s transition from being externally regulated by their caregivers in infancy to becoming internally regulated as they transitioned into early and middle childhood. This is what drew me to the field of early childhood development.

One of the best things about working at RTI is the people. RTI is full of talented people from multiple disciplines who are eager to work together to address challenging problems.

Get in Touch

To speak to this expert or inquire about RTI services, you can reach us at +1 919 541 6000 or use the contact form below. For media inquiries, please reach out to our Media Relations team at news@rti.org.

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