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Dr Damian Scarf

Damian ScarfEmail
Phone 64 3 479 7636

It was a third year psychology paper (PSYC 319) and its teacher (Professor Michael Colombo) that first got Damian interested in psychology. After completing his BSc in Zoology, Damian went onto complete his PhD in Professor Colombo’s lab. His PhD research focused on how pigeons execute and plan sequences. Damian continues to collaborate with Professor Colombo and Damian’s comparative research now employs electrophysiological techniques in order to uncover how sequences are represented at the neural level.

Dr Damian Scarf received his PhD from the University of Otago in 2011. Damian’s PhD focused on the representation and planning of sequences in pigeons. During the course of his PhD Damian received a Fulbright scholarship and worked as a visiting researcher in Professor Herb Terrace’s Primate Cognition Lab at Columbia University. While at Columbia University, Damian investigated the planning abilities of rhesus monkeys and transitive preference in children. Damian received several other scholarships during his PhD as well as a number of travel grants. At the time his PhD was conferred, Damian had 9 first author publications. Damian’s PhD was also placed on the University of Otago Division of Sciences List of Exception PhD Theses.

After completing his PhD Damian went on to be Postdoctoral Fellow, and subsequently a Research Fellow, in Professor Harlene Hayne’s child development lab. In Professor Hayne’s lab Damian focused on memory development in young children and investigated whether children are born with an innate sense of right and wrong.

In 2013 Damian became a Lecturer in the Department of Psychology. The current focus of Damian’s developmental work is mental time travel and the delay of gratification in young children. Damian’s animal work currently focuses on the neurobiology of sequence learning in pigeons and cognitive abilities of parrots, including kea and kaka.


  • PSYC 472 Special Topic: Current Controversies in Psychology

Research Interests

  • Comparative animal cognition; eg, testing the abilityo pigeons to learn novel sequence and solve problems
  • Developmental psychology; eg, testing the ability of 3- and 4-year-old children for the future and delay gratification

Find out more about Dr Scarf's research interests


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