Research in the School of Psychology

The School of Psychology is one of the largest schools in the Faculty of Science at the University of Sydney, with over 40 full-time continuing academic staff. Importantly, The School of Psychology has committed itself to a strong research-oriented path by recruiting research-active staff, investing strategically in research infrastructure, and supporting research-only appointments. The School has 8 research fellows supported by ARC, NHMRC and the Cancer Institute and averages over 25 research higher degree completions per year.

The School's research excellence has expanded rapidly and is one of the most research-active departments in Australia. Competitive grant funding has also soared thanks to success with applications to the ARC, NHMRC and other funders. Current external research income, from competitive grant funding and philanthropy, exceeds $14 million, with an additional $2.9 million from the government which supports research and teaching. Reflecting this, the School rated well in the recent ERA assessment, receiving a 5 (outstanding performance well above world standard, the highest rating) for the Cognitive Science category and a 4 (above world standard) for Psychology.

Research Areas

Clinical Cognition Developmental
Forensic Health Learning
Method & Theory Neuroscience Organisational
Perception Personality & Intelligence Social

Research Centres & Initiatives



Centre for Medical Psychology
& Evidence-based Decision-making
(CeMPED)

The Lambert Initiative for
Cannabinoid Therapeutics

The Psycho-oncology Co-operative
Research Group
(PoCoG)


 

Clinical

Clinical Psychology research conducted by staff in the School broadly examines the psychological, sociocultural, emotional, intellectual, neuropsychological and behavioural aspects of human functioning in an effort to promote understanding of various disorders, evidence based treatments, healthy development and adjustment. Academic staff members have interests and expertise in many different areas of adult and child clinical psychology and neuropsychology, which include anxiety and mood disorders, aggression and antisocial problems, eating disorders, problem gambling, chronic pain and adjustment, memory disorders, mediators of cognitive decline in older adults as well as expertise in qualitative enquiry.

Training and research clinics provide assessment and intervention for a range of presentations for the university and broader community, as well as facilitating research. Specialist clinics within the School include the Psychology Clinic, the Child Behaviour Research Clinic, the Gambling Research Clinic and the Healthy Brain Ageing Clinic.

Professor Alex Blaszczynski Professor Louise Sharpe
  • Pathalogical gambling
  • Impulse control behaviours
  • Mental models of risk
  • Post-traumatic stress
  • Internet addiction
  • More information
  • The efficacy of cognitive and/or behavioural treatments in the management of chronic pain and rheumatoid arthritis
  • Understanding the process of adjustment in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and other illnesses
  • The role of hypervigilance in the development, maintenance, prevention and treatment of chronic pain
  • More information
Professor Stephen Touyz Associate Professor Maree Abbott
  • Eating disorders from the perspective of:
  • clinical psychology
  • psychiatry
  • neuropsychology
  • behavioural medicine
  • More information
  • Anxiety and cognition
  • Rumination in social phobia
  • Intrusive thoughts, worry and generalized anxiety
  • Perfectionism and procrastination
  • Overeating/binge eating
  • More information
Professor Mark Dadds Professor Caroline Hunt
  • Understanding factors involved in school-based bullying
  • Anxiety, including models of pathological worry, procrastination
  • More information
Associate Professor Sunny Lah Associate Professor Paul Rhodes
  • Neuropsychological rehabilitation
  • Nature and mechanism of neuropsychological disorders arising from brain insults
  • Memory deficits in neurological disorders
  • More information
  • Reflective Practice & the Personal Development of Therapists
  • Community-based approaches to clinical psychology
  • Family-based treatment of anorexia nervosa
  • Feminism, embodiment and anorexia nervosa
  • Family-based approaches to developmental disabilities
  • More information
Dr Marianna Szabo Associate Professor David Hawes
  • Worry: relationship with problem solving and decision making; other cognitive aspects
  • Children: developmental aspects of worry, anxiety and depression
  • Depression
  • More information
  • Child psychopathology & conduct problems
  • Parenting practices & behavioural parent training
  • Psychopathy and callous-unemotional traits
  • Child temperament, emotion processing, and empathy
  • More information
Associate Professor Ilona Juraskova Dr Niko Tiliopoulos
  • Doctor-patient-family communication
  • Development and evaluation of decision-making resources
  • Psychosexual adjustment and quality of life
  • More information
  • Personality disorders - cluster A in the DSM-IV-TR
  • Psychology & psychopathology of religion & spirituality
  • More information
Dr Helen Paterson Associate Professor David Allsop
Dr Sally Gainsbury Dr Frances Houwing
  • Disordered gambling and addictions
  • Internet risk taking and problematic use
  • Internet gaming addiction
  • Internet treatment
  • Harm minimisation, responsible gambling and prevention
  • Warning signs
  • More information
  • Developmental psychopathology
  • Parenting practices (including discipline practices), and parent training
  • Social cognitive theory (e.g., investigating moral disengagement, and self-efficacy)
  • Childhood emotional problems (e.g., excessive anxiety) and behavioural problems
  • More information

 

Cognition

Cognitive psychology explores the internal mental processes that people use to store, process, retrieve, transform and use information to interpret objects and events in the world and to solve problems, make decisions, speak and act.
Professor Sally Andrews Dr Bruce Burns
  • Language: reading, spelling, word recognition
  • Memory: lexical memory, working memory, implicit memory
  • Bilingualism, cross language comparisons
  • Expertise
  • More information
  • How streaks of events affect decision making
  • Biases in the interpretation of financial data
  • Hormonal influences on risky choices
  • Cognitive illusions in reasoning
  • Complex problem solving
  • More information
Dr Karen Croot Dr Irina Harris
  • Speech perception and production, foreign accents
  • Motor learning
  • More information
  • Object recognition and interpreting object orientation
  • Visual attention and selection
  • Capacity limits in encoding visual information, repetition blindness, attentional blink
  • Visual Cognition Lab
  • More information
Professor Sharon Naismith Dr Caleb Owens
  • The involuntary capture of visual and auditory attention
  • Top-down modulation of attentional capture
  • Inattentional blindness
  • Locus of selection in visual attention
  • False memory and eye-witness testimony
  • Gullibility, reasoning, and problem solving
  • More information
Dr Helen Paterson Dr Damian Birney
Associate Professor Thomas Carlson Dr Evan Livesey
  • Neural Coding
  • Functional Magnetic Resonance imaging (fMRI)
  • Magnetoencephalography (MEG)
  • Multivariate Pattern Analysis (Brian decoding)
  • Object and Face recognition.
  • Body Perception
  • Social Perception
  • Visual Attention
  • More information
  • Implicit learning and automaticity
  • Associations and reasoning in causal learning
  • Action preparation and cognitive control
  • TMS Lab
  • More information
Dr Micah B. Goldwater Dr Fiona Kumfor
  • The nature and acquisition of knowledge in children and adults
  • Concept & language learning
  • Science and math education
  • More information
  • Social cognition
  • Face processing
  • Emotion perception
  • Ageing and dementia
  • Neuroimaging
  • Memory: emotion memory, episodic memory, semantic memory
  • More information
Dr Celine van Golde Dr Gareth Roberts
  • The role of oscillatory activity in complex goal-directed behaviour
  • Frontal lobe function across the lifespan
  • More information

 

Developmental

Developmental psychology is concerned with describing and explaining psychological changes that occur as individuals progress from conception to death. Such changes have many sources, including physical maturation, learning, social interaction and other experiences. Developmental Psychology is thus best described as an approach to psychological investigation which can concern itself with typical and atypical development in all domains of psychology, from language and cognition to emotion and social behaviour.
Professor Fiona White Professor Caroline Hunt
Associate Professor Sunny Lah Dr Marianna Szabo
  • Impact of epilepsy, epilepsy surgery and head injury on memory and learning ability in children
  • Congnitive fatigue, executive functions and social/moral reasoning in prematurely born children or children who have sustained a head injury
  • More information
  • Children: developmental aspects of worry, anxiety and depression
  • More information
Dr Micah B. Goldwater Dr Caroline Moul
  • The nature and acquisition of knowledge in children and adults
  • Concept & language learning
  • Science and math education
  • More information
  • The development of psychopathy, behavioural genetics and epigenetic processes
  • The developmental mechanisms of disorders, childhood obesity
  • More information
Dr Celine van Golde Dr Frances Houwing
  • Social cognitive theory (e.g., investigating moral disengagement, and self-efficacy)
  • Children’s truth- and lie-telling
  • Parental discipline practices
  • More information

 

Forensic

Forensic psychology is the application of psychological knowledge and theories to all aspects of the justice system, including the processes and the people. Academic staff members at the University of Sydney have interest and expertise in many aspects of forensic psychology.
Dr Helen Paterson Dr Celine van Golde
Associate Professor Pauline Howie
  • Metacognitive factors in children's testimony and event recall
  • Interview techniques to facilitate accurate reporting in children
  • Memory development
  • Source monitoring and imagery
  • More information

 

Health

Health psychology relates broadly to questions about how people stay physically well, and how to optimise their experience and that of their families, when they become ill. Overall, Health Psychologists study the factors which promote and maintain good health and prevent illness, lead people to take up optimal screening to detect illness at an early stage (such as mammograms for the detection of breast cancer), and ensure early and accurate diagnosis, effective treatment, good psychological adjustment to acute and chronic illness, optimal quality of life and optimal end-of-life care. Health behaviours are key to good health, and are amendable to psychological interventions, so these are a key interest for health psychologists. Health psychologists are also interested in the analysis and improvement of the health care system and health policy formation.
Professor Phyllis Butow Professor Madeleine King
  • Quality of life outcomes of cancer patients
  • Measurement issues in health-related quality of life (HRQOL) and other self-reported health outcomes (PROs)
  • Optimising study design and data quality of HRQOL/PROs endpoints in clinical studies, including randomised trials and longitudinal studies
  • Patient preferences and utility estimation in health context, particularly cancer
  • More information
Professor Louise Sharpe Dr Melanie Price
  • Psychological impact of disease
  • Development of interventions to facilitate adjustment to illness
  • Evaluation of interventions for preventing physical and psychological morbidity in patients with ill health
  • More information
  • Doctor-patient communication
  • Communicating health risk information
  • Health decision-making
  • Health related Quality of Life
  • More information
Dr Margaret Charles Associate Professor Ilona Juraskova
  • Relationship between social capital and psychological wellbeing
  • Psychological aspects of palliative care
  • More information
  • Medical decision-making
  • Doctor-patient communication
  • Quality of life outcomes of cancer patients
  • HPV vaccination: psychological impact
  • More information
Dr Ben Colagiuri Dr Matthew Coleshill
  • How are placebo and nocebo effects formed?
  • How long do placebo and nocebo effects last?
  • How do cues influence reward-seeking behaviour?
  • Do we need to be aware for learning to occur?
  • How does variability affect our learning?
  • More information
  • The placebo effect
  • Non-specific side effects
  • The descending modulation of pain
  • More information
Dr Ilan Dar-Nimrod Dr Rebecca Pinkus
  • Genes by environment interactions and health
  • Cognitive decline and Alzheimer's disease
  • Health and risk communication and decision making
  • More information
  • Social cognition
  • Social comparison
  • Close relationships
  • Social control of health behaviours
  • More information
Dr Claudia Rutherford Dr Joanne Shaw
  • Patient-reported outcome (PRO) assessment
  • Develop and evaluate quality of life (QOL) measures
  • Develop and evaluate PRO symptom indices and cancer-specific modules
  • Develop decision-making resources for ductal carcinoma in situ
  • More information
  • Psycho-oncology
  • Medical and health communication
  • Psychophysiology
  • Communicating bad news
  • Medical decision-making
  • Psychological intervention development and evaluation
  • Clinical trial consent
  • More information
Associate Professor David Allsop

 

Learning

The psychology of learning is concerned with understanding how experience shapes behaviour. Learning research with humans and other animals examines the effect of external stimuli and events, internal physical states, motivation, attention and higher order cognition on the performance of a wide range of simple and complex behaviours, from reflexive biological responses to reasoned decision making. The study of learning seeks to reveal the theoretical, functional and neurophysiological underpinnings of these behavioural changes.
Professor Robert Boakes Professor Justin Harris
Dr Evan Livesey Dr Ben Colagiuri
  • The relationship between learning and attention
  • Implicit learning and automaticity
  • Discrimination learning and stimulus generalization
  • Associations and reasoning in causal learning
  • Australian Learning Group
  • More information
  • How are placebo and nocebo effects formed?
  • How long do placebo and nocebo effects last?
  • How do cues influence reward-seeking behaviour?
  • Do we need to be aware for learning to occur?
  • How does variability affect our learning?
  • More information
Dr Ian Johnston Dr Laura Corbit
  • Goal-directed versus Habit Learning
  • The Influence of Conditioned Stimuli on Response Performance and Choice
  • More information

 

Method & Theory

This group is concerned with the philosophical, theoretical and methodological aspects of research in psychology. These include: the analysis of philosophical and theoretical assumptions that underpin psycho-social research; theory construction; the concept of measurement; evaluating research designs, research types, and the use of descriptive and inferential statistics.
Dr Margaret Charles Dr Fiona Hibberd
  • Quantitative methods
  • Psychological measurement
  • Teaching and learning of statistics
  • More information
  • History and philosophy of psychology
  • Psychoanalysis
  • Conceptual issues in statistics and psychometrics
  • More information
Dr Damian Birney Associate Professor Sabina Kleitman
  • Using multivariate techniques for individual differences research
  • More information
A/Prof Joel Michell Associate Professor Paul Rhodes
  • Qualitative Research Methods
  • Narrative Inquiry
  • Critical and Post-Structural Psychology
  • Participatory Action Research
  • Philosophy and Clinical Psychology
  • More information

 

Neuroscience

Neuroscience is the study of the biological basis of all aspects of psychology, and is both a basic science and a clinical process to understand and treat psychological and psychiatric disorders. The scope of neuroscience is extensive and neuroscientists employ a wide range of techniques: Studying the physiology of neural tissue, using animal models of behaviour to investigate the molecular biology and neurochemistry of fundamental psychological processes, and application of neuroimaging techniques to associate brain activity with human perception, action, attention, memory, language, emotion and mood.
Professor Ian Curthoys Professor Iain McGregor
  • The anatomy and physiology of the vestibular system
  • Vestibular loss and compensation
  • Long-term potentiation (LTP)
  • The role of the hippocampus in spatial memory
  • The role of the hippocampus in spatial learning
  • More information
Professor Frans Verstraten Professor Robert Boakes
  • Functional Neuro-Imaging.
  • Adaptation and aftereffects
  • Motion perception
  • Search and eye-movements
  • Optic flow, heading and moving observers
  • Time perception
  • Visual delusion
  • Attention
  • Virtual Reality
  • History of cognitive neuroscience
  • More information
Associate Professor Thomas Carlson Dr Irina Harris
  • Neural Coding
  • Functional Magnetic Resonance imaging (fMRI)
  • Magnetoencephalography (MEG)
  • Multivariate Pattern Analysis (Brian decoding)
  • Object and Face recognition.
  • Body Perception
  • Social Perception
  • Visual Attention
  • More information
  • Neural processes (using TMS) underlying:
  • object recognition
  • Visual attention and selection
  • Capacity limits in encoding visual information, repetition blindness, attentional blink
  • Visual Cognition Lab
  • More information
Professor Justin Harris Dr Ian Johnston
Associate Professor Sunny Lah Associate Professor David Allsop
  • Neuropsychological rehabilitation
  • Impact of neurological disorders and/or brain injury on psychological functioning
  • More information
Dr Michael Bowen Dr Laura Corbit
  • Novel pharmacotherapies for psychiatric and neurological disorders
  • Treatments targeting the brain oxytocin system
  • Treatments targeting extrasynaptic GABAA receptors
  • Substance-use disorders and social disorders (e.g. autism spectrum disorder)
  • Novel neural systems involved in neurological and mental health disorders
  • Cannabinoid therapeutics
  • Cellular and animal models
  • The Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics
  • More information
  • Neural Substrates of Actions and Habits
  • Animal Models of Drug-Seeking and Relapse
  • Pharmacological Manipulations and Neural Control of Extinction Learning
  • More information
Dr Gareth Roberts
  • Methodological advances in electrophysiological data analysis
  • The role of oscillatory activity in complex goal-directed behaviour
  • Frontal lobe function across the lifespan
  • More information

 

Organisational

Organisational psychology focuses on the application of the research, theory and practice of psychology to the enhancement of life experience, work performance and development of organisations and groups. Coaching psychology encompasses executive coaching, workplace coaching, leadership development and personal coaching at both group and individual levels. In coaching the key theoretical frameworks include solution-focused, cognitive-behavioural, and psychodynamic theory, complexity/systems theory and adult developmental theory.
Associate Professor Anthony Grant Dr Michael Cavanagh
  • Life, workplace and executive coaching
  • Socio-cognitive issues in the psychology of coaching and performance enhancement
  • Trans-theoretical model of change
  • Evaluation of personal development programs
  • Applied positive psychology
  • Insight and self-reflection
  • The Coaching Psychology Unit
  • More information
  • Coaching; workplace, life and health
  • Meta-cognition and attention in self regulation and emotional regulation
  • Client coach relationships
  • Positive psychology, wellbeing and goal attainment
  • Leadership and adult development
  • Mindfulness
  • Group functioning and team development
  • The Coaching Psychology Unit
  • More information
Dr Sean O'Connor
  • Coaching; Workplace and Leadership
  • Positive Organisational Change
  • Positive psychology, wellbeing and goal attainment
  • Leadership and Network Cognitions
  • Social Network Analysis and Systems
  • Technology and Self development
  • The Coaching Psychology Unit
  • More information

 

Perception

The process by which signals from the sensory periphery (receptors in the eyes, ears, skin etc) are interpreted and organized to produce a meaningful experience of the external world. By representing the objects and attributes of our surrounding environment, perception allows us to interact with our world.

We run an informal discussion group and journal club where we discuss a broad spectrum of topics in perception. The Perception Group meets regularly and everyone is welcome to join, for more information and dates click here.

Professor David Alais Professor Bart Anderson
  • Visual perception of motion & orientation
  • Binocular rivalry
  • Auditory movement
  • Auditory localization during head movements
  • interactions between visual and auditory movement
  • audio-visual attention
  • Models of cross-modal integration
  • More information
  • Perceptual organization
  • Computation of three dimensional shape of surfaces
  • Surface reflectance
  • Material properties of surfaces
  • More information
Professor Ian Curthoys Associate Professor Alex Holcombe
  • The anatomy and physiology of the vestibular system
  • Vestibular loss and compensation
  • Vestibulo-ocular reflex
  • Eye movements, especially ocular torsion
  • Linear acceleration and angular acceleration stimulation
  • Vestibular Research Laboratory
  • More information
  • Binding perceptual features
  • Visual cognition
  • Temporal aspects of perception
  • Capacity limits on perceptual processing
  • More information
Professor Frans Verstraten Dr Ann Burgess
  • Vision Science, perception: motion perception, adaptation, attention, binocular vision, illusions, neuro-imaging, Artificial Intelligence
  • Perceptual aspects of Advertising & Marketing Communication
  • More information
Associate Professor Thomas Carlson Dr Hamish MacDougall
  • Neural Coding
  • Functional Magnetic Resonance imaging (fMRI)
  • Magnetoencephalography (MEG)
  • Multivariate Pattern Analysis (Brian decoding)
  • Object and Face recognition.
  • Body Perception
  • Social Perception
  • Visual Attention
  • More information

 

Personality & Intelligence

Our research focus is on the understanding of (a) trait theories of intelligence (including traditional notions of and emotional intelligence), metacognition and personality; (b) the core individual characteristics (cognitive/metacognitive abilities, normal and abnormal personality, mental and, religion and spirituality, and decision-making paradigms) that influence/predict different life outcomes; and (c) the ways these individual differences serve as the bases of much of contemporary psychological assessment in educational, clinical, cross-cultural, forensic, and organizational settings.
Associate Professor Sabina Kleitman Dr Carolyn MacCann
  • Meta-cognition
  • Decision-making
  • Cognitive styles/thinking dispositions and their role in cognition
  • Cognitive response-selection strategies and their role in academic achievements
  • More information
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Coping with stress
  • Methodological issues in personality assessment
  • Response distortion in personality assessment
  • Non-cognitive predictors of academic achievement
  • More information
Dr Niko Tiliopoulos Dr Damian Birney
  • Personality - the traits approach
  • Adult attachment styles
  • Psychology & psychopathology of religion & spirituality
  • Cross-cultural psychological elements of faith
  • More information
  • Individual differences in Fluid Cognitive Functions
  • Cognitive training and self-regulatory mediators
  • Working memory
  • Fluid intelligence and reasoning
  • Psychometric Assessment
  • Cognitive Training Lab
  • More information
Dr Gareth Roberts
  • Individual differences in cognitive control, learning and fluid intelligence
  • Theoretical perspectives on human consciousness, attention and intelligence
  • More information

 

Social

What makes social psychology social is that it focuses on how people are affected by other people. In particular, social psychology is the scientific investigation of attitudes, feelings and behaviour, and the interactions between these components. A fundamental goal of social psychology is to understand the factors that shape people's interpersonal relationships and their experiences in the social world.
Professor Fiona White Dr Karen Gonsalkorale
  • Forms of prejudice/discrimination
  • The reduction of intergroup bias/prejudice/discrimination
  • Improving the measurement of intergroup bias/prejudice/discrimination
  • The SUPIR Lab
  • More information
  • Social cognition
  • Intergroup relations
  • Stereotyping and prejudice
  • Gender roles
  • Women’s identification with Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and Medicine (STEMM)
  • Ostracism
  • More information
Dr Helen Paterson Dr Ilan Dar-Nimrod
  • Social cognition
  • Person perception
  • Genes by environment interactions
  • Existential psychology
  • Judgment and decision making
  • Gender
  • Stereotypes and prejudice
  • More information
Dr Rebecca Pinkus Dr Celine van Golde
  • Social cognition
  • Social comparison
  • Close relationships
  • Social control of health behaviours
  • More information