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Damian ScarfEmail
Tel +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. Damian is now the head of the Adolescent Behaviour and Child Development (ABCD) Lab. The current focus of Damian's research is positive youth development in high school students and alcohol consumption in university students.


  • PSYC 427 Topical Issues in Child Development
  • PSYC 436 Topical Issues in Adolescent Behaviour

Research interests

  • Child development eg, the impact of media on behaviour
  • Adolescent behaviour eg, building resilience in adolescents

Find out more about Associate Professor Scarf's research interests


Conner, T. S., Teah, G. E., Sibley, C. G., Turner, R. M., Scarf, D., & Mason, A. (2024). Psychological predictors of vaping uptake among non-smokers: A longitudinal investigation of New Zealand. Drug & Alcohol Review. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1111/dar.13822 Journal - Research Article

Riordan, B., Scarf, D., Merrill, J. E., Lim, M. S. C., & Kuntsche, E. (2024). How is substance use portrayed in digital media and what impacts can it have? Drug & Alcohol Review, 43, 5-8. doi: 10.1111/dar.13784 Journal - Research Other

Mason, A., Riordan, B. C., Morley, K., Winter, T., Haber, P., & Scarf, D. (2023). High risk or risky highs: The impact of alcohol and cannabis on the suicidal trajectory. Proceedings of the Graduate Research Student Symposium. (pp. 21). Retrieved from Conference Contribution - Published proceedings: Abstract

Du Plooy, K., Wishart, B., Scarf, D., & Samaranayaka, A. (2023). The impact of Green Prescription on sustained physical activity levels, quality of life, and mental health. Journal of Sport & Exercise Science, 7(4), (pp. 69-70). doi: 10.36905/jses.2023.04.01 Conference Contribution - Published proceedings: Abstract

Yan, R., Hunter, J., Scarf, D., & Ruffman, T. (2023). Inner workings of the wealthy: Are the rich as bad as we think? Proceedings of the Joint Conference of the Society for Australasian Social Psychologists (SASP) and the Australasian Congress on Personality and Individual Differences (ACPID). (pp. 134). Retrieved from Conference Contribution - Published proceedings: Abstract

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