School of Psychology


Psychology is the scientific study of mental processes. Psychologists seek to answer questions about how and why people behave the way they do.


The School is home to three collaborative research centres.

ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders

The Centre offers opportunities for interdisciplinary and international collaborative research in order to link theoretical models and basic research findings in the cognitive sciences with outcomes focused on people with cognitive disorders.

Centre for the Study of Social Change

The Centre provides an opportunity, unique in Australia, for collaborative research into social change.

The Centre is based in the School of Psychology in partnership with the Institute of Advanced Studies and provides an opportunity, unique in Australia, for collaborative research into social change.

It conducts research and sponsors conferences, symposia, seminars and other forums for interdisciplinary dialogue and encourages the publication of discussion papers, lectures and proceedings which result from these events.

A committee comprised of academic, government, business and community representatives provides advice to the centre.

The Centre:

  • applies research findings to devise workable public policy solutions to current and emerging problems
  • brings together researchers and scholars from many disciplines
  • creates a dynamic focal point for research, analysis and debate across academic and policy divides
  • helps educate a generation of academics and policy makers and increases their awareness of the complexities of social change
  • links academics in Australia and the region in developing a generic, cross-cultural understanding of social change
  • links academics with policy makers in business and government.

Applying the social sciences to understand humanity's most urgent problems and devising evidence-based solutions to address them.
Director: Professor Carmen Lawrence


Elizabeth Rutherford Memorial Centre for the Advancement of Research on Emotion (CARE)

logo of Centre for Advancement of Research on Emotion (CARE) The Elizabeth Rutherford Memorial Centre for the Advancement of Research on Emotion (CARE) commemorates the work of the late Dr. Rutherford, a world leader in research into emotion.

The aim of the Centre is to advance our understanding of emotion by bringing together research in the areas of cognitive psychology, biological psychology, social psychology, developmental psychology, and clinical psychology.

Key objectives and focus areas of the centre include:

  • Bringing together world leaders in different research areas to establish new innovations in the understanding of emotion.
  • Investigating patterns of selective information proccesing (or cognitive biases) that may underpin mental health problems, and examining the causal contribution of these biases to anxiety, worry, and depression.
  • Evaluating recent developments in cognitive bias modification (CBM) techniques to contribute to the emotional well-being of the Australian community.
Lab leader

Laboratories and programs

Here you will find information and contact details for some of our specialised research labs and programs.

For information on other current research activities and opportunities, contact the School.

Accelerated Learning laboratory

The University of Western Australia Accelerated Learning laboratory (ALL@UWA) is a world-class facility for developing leaders at all levels in all types of organisations.

ALL@UWA creates intensive learning environments that are highly customized to fit client needs. Participants cultivate flexible expertise through participation in experiential learning using high-fidelity simulations, enhancing a range of knowledge and skills such as problem solving, communication, and analytical capability.

ALL@UWA is part of the prestigious network of laboratories at the Australian Graduate School of Management and the Melbourne Business School, which collaborate to create leading-edge knowledge from rigorous research.

Opportunities for your business

ALL@UWA is accepting expressions of interest from businesses to be involved in this exciting development.

Contact us if you are interested in improving your organisation in the following areas:

  • Leader development
  • Safety leadership
  • Proactivity and innovation
  • Decision making
  • Communication skills
  • Organisational health
  • Team effectiveness
  • Work design
  • Motivation
  • Self-regulation
  • Thinking styles
  • Cross-cultural communication

Key Staff

Clinical Psychology

Clinical Psychology aims to understand and to change abnormal behaviour, cognitions, and emotions through the application of principles and techniques developed in the understanding of normal behaviour, cognition, and emotions.

In this spirit, our laboratory group aims to apply our understanding of normal psychology to extend our knowledge of the nature and modification of psychological problems. Applying patient monitoring to mental health settings with a view to improving outcomes.

Using electronic systems of data entry and management, it is possible to develop patient feedback systems that provide real-time information on progress. We are also working on developing ways to enhance treatments when progress is not optimal.

By tracking change from day to day and also examining the ways that increase temporal precision of measurement, we are seeking
to see if we can assist in the prediction and prevention of suicide and self-harm. By understanding the process of change, we are
endeavouring to understand the mechanisms of change during psychotherapy and to maximize the benefits of therapy.


Cognition and Emotion

Clinical theorists have attributed emotional disorders to cognitive idiosyncrasies, while cognitive theorists have developed models which suggest that emotional states will be associated with pervasive information processing biases throughout the cognitive system.

Both clinical and cognitive models of emotional disorders predict the existence of processing biases favouring emotionally congruent information in attention, comprehension, and memory.

Current research uses cognitive-experimental paradigms to test hypotheses arising from these models, and focuses on several related questions including:

  • To what extent are such biases automatic?
  • What is the relative involvement of state and trait variables?
  • Do information processing biases mediate emotional reaction to valenced stimuli?
  • Is susceptibility to mood congruent information processing biases a vulnerability factor for emotional disorders?

Research in the Cognition and Emotion lab is currently undertaken through the Elizabeth Rutherford Memorial Centre for the Advancement of Research on Emotion (CARE). For further detail, please refer to the Centre's information above.


Cognitive Science laboratories

Research in the Cognitive Science Lab investigates human memory and reasoning, using mainly behavioural experimentation and computational modelling.

Main topics of interest are:

  • Memory updating: How do we maintain an accurate representation of an ever-changing world?
  • Misinformation effects: How does incorrect information affect memory, reasoning, and decision-making even after it has been corrected?
  • Forgetting: Why do we forget some things but not others?

Communication laboratory (ComLab)

Collective behaviour explains most human acheivements. Human communication systems, such as language, arise through collective behaviour and facilitate other collective outcomes (for example education).

At the Communication laboratory (ComLab) we are interested in understanding how effective and efficient human communication sytems evolve.

We investigate this through naturalistic studies, experiments and computer simulations.



Faces convey a wealth of information that guides our social interactions.

At a glance we can assess a person’s identity, gender, ethnicity, age, attractiveness, emotional state and focus of attention.

This fluency is remarkable given the difficulty of the discriminations required. We are studying the perceptual, cognitive and evolutionary mechanisms underlying this face processing expertise.

The FaceLab also hosts the Person Perception Program of the ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders (CCD).

Join the FaceLab

Prior to applying candidates must email Ms Libby Taylor.

Participate in an experiment

Interested in taking part in a FaceLab experiment? Email Ms Libby Taylor.

Catch us on social media
Further information on the Facelab
PhD study

ARC CCD Person Perception Node in Perth, 2014


Global Resilience Program

The Global Resilience Program aims to contribute to improvements in mental health, security and engagement in education and livelihoods for young people affected by trauma and chronic adversity.

Adolescent Resilience, Health and Security after Disasters Project
Asia is affected by more natural disasters than any other region. In 2011 alone, 159.3 million people were affected by disasters in China, accounting for 65% of global disaster victims.

The Resilient Futures Project aims to investigate the mental health, security and developmental impacts of disaster among adolescents living in China and Nepal.

Conducted in partnership with the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University, Kunming Medical University, and the Centre for Victims of Torture Nepal, and funded by the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust, the study will enhance our understanding of the role of complex trauma among disaster-affected adolescents, with potential to enhance mental health services in the region.
Strengthening Mental Health Outcomes among Refugees in Western Australia
In partnership with the Association for Services to Torture and Trauma Survivors (ASeTTS), we aim to determine the specific risk and protective factors associated with psychological outcomes among asylum seekers and refugees seeking treatment in Western Australia.

ASeTTS provides psychological care for people from a refugee like background who have experienced torture or trauma in their country of origin, during their flight to Australia, or while in detention.

By highlighting mental health needs, risk factors and service outcomes we hope to contribute to the evidence base for refugee health and the role of specialised trauma services.
Hong Kong Disaster Preparedness Scoping Study
Hong Kong is likely to face more complex major emergencies in the near future as climate change intersects with high density living, mass transport expansion and an ageing population. The Scoping Study is a mixed-methods assessment designed to investigate community and agency disaster preparedness in Hong Kong.

A multiple-perspective analysis of preparedness and response capacity, the findings indicate a need for further community preparedness strategies and tailored training opportunities.

The Scoping Study was conducted in collaboration with the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University, Hong Kong University, CCOUC at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and funded by the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust.
The Impact of Trauma on Mental Health and Livelihoods
The impacts of trauma intersect human development, mental health and social capital. An emerging evidence base on livelihoods in post-conflict, disaster-affected and adverse settings suggests that psychological reactions to trauma impede individuals’ access to education and economic opportunities in the highest to the lowest-income nations.

Yet in concert with these challenges, recent findings have revealed an underlying narrative of post-traumatic resilience among youth exposed to war and disaster. This project builds on longitudinal studies to examine the impact of sudden shocks and daily stressors on children, adolescents and adults in adverse settings globally.

Assessing mental health outcomes and opportunities to access and engage in education, health care and community support will highlight the specific risk and protective factors crucial to psychological and economic resilience.
Contact research team leader

Human Vision laboratory

Human relationships with the world centre around vision. The way we see determines our ability to interact with the environment.

Vision has a central role in our relationship with the world and the way we see determines how we are able to interact with the environment. The focus of our research is on human visual performance and has concentrated on the processes involved in extracting motion, pattern and position information. It has examined both the contribution of the visual pathways to individual tasks and the extent to which common neural and perceptual processes are involved in motion, pattern and position coding. The processes are investigated using both normal and clinical groups of observers.

Currently the laboratory is running long term and projects examining how humans perceive both the speed and direction of the type of motion produced by moving through the environment, the processes that allow us to determine the location of objects within the environment, the processes that allow us to determine the large scale structure of the visual world and also how these processes are altered in Migrane, Glaucoma, and Autism.


Learning Attention and Behaviour laboratory

The Learning Attention and Behaviour Lab investigates the role of human information processing in broad areas of perceptual, cognitive, social, and clinical psychology

Our ability to process information processing is surprisingly limited. That is why we often have trouble focusing on driving while talking on a mobile phone, or reading the newspaper around others who are watching television or playing a video game. Because we can only process a limited amount of information, a critical determinant of our awareness, beliefs, and behaviours are the mechanisms that select the information to be processed. The focus of research in our lab is on understanding the mechanisms underlying this selection and the interplay between selection, mental states and behaviour.


Room 3.04, Psychology Building


(+61 8) 6488 1421

Lab leader

Lifespan Developement laboratory

Welcome to the Lifespan Development Group and the West Australian Participant Pool. The home of volunteers and researchers interested in the path of emotional and mental ageing.

The Lifespan Lab conducts research into typical and abnormal ageing. Typical ageing research is conducted within the Healthy Ageing Research Project and in collaboration with the Busselton Health Study.

Abnormal ageing research (e.g. Parkinson’s, Sleep Apnoea, and Alzheimer’s) is conducted in collaboration with the Sleep Clinic at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, with the Parkinson’s Centre (ParkC) at Curtin, and with the McCusker Alzheimer’s Research Centre.

Healthy Ageing Research Project (HARP)

Project HARP is the umbrella name for a series of programmatic research projects focused on typical ageing. HARP is directed by Romola Bucks and Michael Weinborn. Projects have included evaluating predictors of independent functioning in healthy ageing individuals, and exploring the cognitive and neurological burden of sleep disturbance. All projects involve assessment of cognitive and emotional functioning, as well as functional outcomes.

Our research is supported by the kind contribution of volunteers from the West Australian Participant Pool (WAPP), directed by Romola Bucks. WAPP volunteers are community adults, 50+ years of age, who agree to be contacted regarding participation in one or more of the Lifespan Lab's research studies.


Memory and Decision Making

We use behavioural methods and computational modelling to understand how people remember their past experiences, and how people draw on those experiences to make choices and plan ahead. We are interested both in individual cognition, and how people form judgements and make decisions as groups.

Some of the core questions addressed by our research are:

  • How is episodic memory structured, and how does that structuring feed in to our ability to plan and predict?
  • How is working memory – our ability to maintain information in the face of distraction—work, and how is it related to episodic memory?
  • How do we decisions quickly and accurately?
  • What is the role of reward in memory and decision-making? To what extent is reward determined by comparisons to others?

Neurocognitive Development Unit (NDU)

The Neurocognitive Development Unit (NDU) was established by The University of Western Australia and the School of Psychology in 2009.

What this means in practice is that we study typically developing children and how their intellectual abilities change (we also have a parallel interest in how these abilities change with advanced ageing) and how these abilities are related to their emotional development (e.g. empathy) and their social abilities. The engine room of the NDU is Project KIDS. Our empirical investigations involve behavioural assessments of cognitive abilities and utilise techniques from experimental psychology and standard methods of cognitive neuropsychology. Because we are interested in how the brain influences development we also use modern neurosceintific measurement techniques - principally EEG and MRI - as well as trying to develop more cutting edge approaches such as Doppler.

We have a diversity of interests and approaches but with one one central goal: To develop theories of the neurocognitive basis of typical and atypical development through the scientific investigation of developmental change in cognitive, emotional and social abilities and their differential manifestation in special populations.

The target of all this empirical work is to develop a theory of the neurocogntiive architecture of the developing mind. We also take the approach that we should formalise and test our theories using computational modeling. It is in this general context that we examine atypical development (children with autism, children with ADHD, children born extremely prematurely, children with early onset type-I diabetes) so that we might better understand the nature of these conditions and in turn they can inform our theories. Finally we are not naive about the impact that cultural forces can have on neurocognitive development and with this in mind and given our own cultural context we have a growing interest in examining development in indigenous populations.


Person and Emotion Perception laboratory (PEPLab)

PEPlab logo Our research aims to understand the perceptual, cognitive, and neural mechanisms underlying person perception.

This often involves studying faces, as they provide information about the identity, age, sex, race, attractiveness and mood of other people, but also involves studying the perception of bodies and voices.

In addition to our work with typically developing children and adults, our lab also investigates person perception in children and adults with atypical development, psychopathology, or brain injury. This includes studies of developmental disorders affecting face processing (congenital/developmental prosopagnosia and autism); neuropsychological studies of people with brain injuries affecting face identity recognition (acquired prosopagnosia) and expression recognition (amygdala/orbitofrontal cortex lesions); and investigations into psychopathology affecting person perception (social anxiety, borderline personality disorder, callous-unemotional traits).

Our research to date has addressed three main questions:

  • What is the role of visual attention in face perception?
  • Why can't some children and adults recognise facial identity?
  • How do we discriminate facial expressions?

Room 1.10-1.12, Main Psychology Building


(+61 8) 6488 3636