Gernsbacher received her Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin in 1983, and was an assistant, associate, and full professor at the University of Oregon, from 1983 to 1992, when she then joined the faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she is a Vilas Research Professor and the Sir Frederic C. Bartlett Professor of Psychology. She is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Society for Experimental Psychologists, the American Psychological Association (Divisions 1, 3, and 6), the American Psychological Society, and the American Educational Research Association.
Gernsbacher has received a Research Career Development Award and a Senior Research Fellowship from the National Institutes of Health, a Fulbright Research Scholar Award, a Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Texas at Dallas, a James McKeen Cattell Foundation Fellowship, the George A. Miller Award, a Professional Opportunities for Women Award from the National Science Foundation, a Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award from the Society for Text and Discourse, and Distinguished Service to Psychological Science Award from APA. In 2013, she received the Ernest R. Hilgard Lifetime Achievement Award.
Gernsbacher has served as President of the 25,000-member Association for Psychological Science, President of the Society for Text and Discourse, President of the Division of Experimental Psychology of the APA, President of the Foundation for the Advancement for Behavioral and Brain Sciences, Member-at-Large of the American Association for the Advancement in Science, Chair of the APA Board of Scientific Affairs, member of the Psychonomic Society Governing Board and the Medical Affairs Committee of the National Alliance for Autism Research. She currently serves on the Advisory Committee of the Social, Behavioral, & Economic Sciences Directorate of the National Science Foundation.
Gernsbacher is an award-winning teacher, who in 1998 received the Hilldale Award for Distinguished Professional Accomplishment, the highest award bestowed by the University of Wisconsin-Madison faculty. She has served as editor-in-chief of the journal, Memory & Cognition, co-editor of Psychological Science in the Public Interest, associate editor of Cognitive Psychology, and nine other editorial boards. She has delivered the William James Lecture, the Norman Anderson Distinguished Lecture, the Caskey Lecture, the John Kendall Lecture, an APA Distinguished Scientist Lecture, and she was the Inaugural Lufkin Honorary Lecturer. She recently delivered the Ricciuti Lecture and APS’ “Bring the Family” address and served as a Nifty Fifty speaker, in conjunction with the USA Science and Engineering Festival.
Gernsbacher’s research has for over 30 years investigated the cognitive and neural mechanisms that underlie human communication. She has published over 150 journal articles and invited chapters. She authored Language Comprehension as Structure Building (Erlbaum, 1990); edited both editions of the Handbook of Psycholinguistics (Academic Press, 1994; Elsevier, 2006); co-edited Coherence in Spontaneous Text (Benjamins, 1995), the Handbook of Discourse Processes (Erlbaum, 2002), and three other books, including Psychology and the Real World: Essays Illustrating Fundamental Contributions to Society (Worth, 2010; 2014), with two more books in press. Her research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense, the Centers for Disease Control, and several private foundations.