Research in the Department of Psychology
Strong research ethos
The Department of Psychology received the country’s highest score for any nominated academic unit in any discipline, in the latest Performance-Based Research Fund (PBRF) rating exercise.
Being rated the top department at the University of Otago in the same exercise confirms the research ethos employed by academic and research staff; and post-graduate students in Psychology. We are proud of the national and international success our researchers receive.
“It’s a grand reflection of the effort that everyone – academic and research staff, support staff and senior students – has put into our research programme over the last six years.”
Professor Bilkey, Head of Department of Psychology
Research in neuroscience, psychopharmacology, psychophysiology, and behavioural processes is supported by specialised laboratories, and neurophysiological apparatus.
Clinical, developmental, and social psychology laboratories include interview rooms, computer recording facilities for coding behaviour, and audio-visual recording equipment. Research in cognition and perception includes equipment for recording evoked potentials, for measuring eye movements, for investigating hemisphere asymmetry, and a flight simulator.
The technical and administrative staff of the Department provide enthusiastic and skilled assistance over a wide range of areas of research.
Interdisciplinary research with other disciplines
Interdisciplinary approaches are encouraged and there are well-established links with other university departments in the Division of Sciences, the Division of Humanities, and in the Division of Health Sciences.
The academic staff of the Department of Psychology supervise graduate research in a wide range of areas of experimental and applied psychology, including behavioural processes, clinical psychology, cognition, cognitive neuroscience, developmental psychology, human factors, memory, neuropsychology, perception, psychobiology, psychopharmacology, psychophysiology, and social psychology.
- Professor Cliff Abraham
Neural mechanisms of learning and memory, cellular and molecular events underlying nervous system plasticity and Alzheimer’s disease.
- Dr Brent Alsop
Experimental analysis of human and animal behaviour in detection and choice procedures.
- Professor David Bilkey
Biological basis of memory and learning. Spatial memory and navigation. Hippocampal function in schizophrenia.
- Professor Mike Colombo
Neural basis of memory and learning, effects of brain damage on behaviour, comparative animal cognition.
- Dr Tamlin Conner
Emotional and physical well-being, implicit social cognition, genetics, computerised experience sampling methods.
- Professor Liz Franz
Planning, attention, and memory processes of complex actions in neurologically-normal and impaired individuals, with a specific focus on bimanual skills.
- Professor Jamin Halberstadt
Interaction of emotion and cognition, intuition and reasoning in decision making, social cognition.
- Professor Harlene Hayne
Memory development in infants and children, childhood amnesia, the development of children’s drawing skills, interviewing children in clinical and legal contexts, risk-taking by adolescents.
- Dr Dione Healey
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, temperament and psychopathology, neuropsychological development in childhood.
- Dr Kristin Hillman
Neural Basis of Effortful Behaviour, Neuroscience, decision-making, goal–directed behaviour, cost-benefit decision, effort expenditure, motivation, anterior cingulate cortex, prefrontal cortex, ambition, neuropharmacology.
- Dr Jackie Hunter
Social identity, self-esteem, prejudice, intergroup relations.
- Professor Bob Knight
Prospective remembering, the development of assessment procedures for clinical practice, memory, and ageing.
- Dr Louis Leland
Applications of behavioural analysis to community and child problems, occupational safety, learning.
- Dr Richard Linscott
Schizophrenia and risk for psychosis; ethics and informed consent; taxometrics.
- Dr Liana Machado
Neuropsychology, visual attention, automaticity, and control.
- Professor Neil McNaughton
The neural basis of anxiety and its disorders; the Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory of human personality; neuroeconomics; the contribution of theta rhythm to these various aspects of mental processing.
- Professor Jeff Miller
Cognitive psychology and psychophysiology, visual perception and attention, mathematical and statistical models and methods.
- Dr Tamar Murachver
Social use of language, relation between language and thought, development of social understanding.
- Dr Janice Murray
Visual cognition, face and object recognition, face perception and aging, visual attention.
- Associate Professor David O’Hare
Cognitive ergonomics, human factors, aviation psychology, expertise and decision-making.
- Professor Elaine Reese
Autobiographical memory development; language and literacy development; social influences on cognitive development.
- Professor Ted Ruffman
Social understanding in infants, children, older adults, and dogs.
- Dr Damian Scarf
Comparative animal cognition; eg, testing the ability of pigeons to learn novel sequences and solve problems. Developmental psychology; eg, testing the ability of 3- and 4-year-old children to plan for the future and delay gratification.
- Dr Elizabeth Schaughency
How to promote evidence-based practices and decision-making to bridge the research-to-practice gap in professional practice with children.
- Dr Mele Taumoepeau
Children’s social understanding, parent-child conversations about mental states, culture and social understanding.
- Dr Gareth Treharne
Psychosocial influences on the experience of illness, treatment decisions and constructions of health in the media.
- Professor Geoff White
Memory and discrimination animals; human memory; impulsivity.
- Dr Rachel Zajac
Psychology and the law, eyewitness testimony, legal/investigative procedures for witnesses.
Psychology Research Labs & Projects
A number of research groups maintain their own webpages, and some have contact information for potential participants in their research.
- Cognitive Ergonomics and Human Decision Making Laboratory
- Action, Brain, and Cognition Lab
Related Multidisciplinary Research
Australasian Winter Conference on Brain Research
AWCBR is New Zealand's premier neuroscience gathering. It encourages a multidisciplinary approach to neuroscience and is structured to leave participants' days free for interaction with other participants while enjoying the pleasures of New Zealand's most popular winter resort.
Brain Health Research Centre
The mission of the Brain Health Research Centre is to undertake internationally excellent research aimed at understanding the mechanisms of brain health, disease and repair, to develop new treatments for neurological disorders, to provide international quality training for the next generation of neuroscientists, and to develop active links with relevant community groups and individuals.