School of Psychological Science

Research

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

Centres

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

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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 Accelerated Learning Lab (ALL@UWA) is an applied research centre at The University of Western Australia. At the lab we draw from a range of human sciences to conduct research in areas such as leadership, safety, well-being, and work design. Through collaborating with a range of industry and government partners, we aim to create healthier and more effective work places.

We also bring together researchers from diverse areas such as Business, Engineering, and Computing, for a unique multi-disciplinary approach towards solving problems and to produce long lasting impact.

Examples of recent projects include:
Future submarines

With the Royal Australian Navy, we are helping to determine what work should look like for submariners on board the new high tech submarines that will be built over the coming decades. New technology means greater opportunities for automation, however human roles must also be re-designed, to ensure optimal performance and endurance across sea missions. Considerations include submariners' workload, task complexity, skill utilisation, and attentional demands.

Work and wellbeing

Good mental health encompasses much more than the absence of poor mental health. By integrating several important bodies of research, we have developed a more comprehensive model of employee well-being. This model draws attention to a three pronged approach in supporting employee well-being: 1) Mitigate illness; 2) Prevent harm; and 3) Promote thriving. This holistic approach towards well-being will help to drive a number of positive outcomes for both individuals and organisations. To date, this model has been used to inform wellbeing strategies across a range of industries, including mining, law enforcement, and the public sector.

For more information check out our website.

Key staff
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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.

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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.

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Cognitive Abilities Lab

Research in the Cognitive Abilities Lab is devoted to the topics of intellectual and emotional intelligence, in addition to the non-intellective factors that may affect test score performance. For example, recent work undertaken with honours and postgraduate students has attempted to understand the nature of individual differences in test-taking motivation, as well as their potential impact on cognitive ability and achievement test scores.

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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?
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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.

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FaceLab

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

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Human Factors and Applied Cognition (HUFAC) Laboratory

The Human Factors and Applied Cognition (HUFAC) laboratory conducts theory-driven research to understand the cognitive mechanisms that underlie human performance in safety-critical work contexts. To achieve this we conduct both basic experimental psychology research and research using simulations of air traffic control, submarine track management, unmanned vehicle control, and driving. The core aim is to strengthen the link between psychological science and practice by publishing in world-class journals, and transferring knowledge and skills as directly as possible back to industry.

Some of the core questions addressed in the HUFAC laboratory include:

  • How can task automation be designed to maximise operator and system efficiency/safety?
  • How to individuals remember to perform delayed intentions when multi-tasking (prospective memory), and how can the negative impact of task interruptions be minimised?
  • What are the mechanisms by which individuals develop understanding the current state of their tasks and anticipate the future (situation awareness), and to what extent can this be trained?

The HUFAC laboratory has received over $6.2 million dollars in funding from bodies such as the Australian Research Council, Air Services Australia, Defence Science and Technology Group, Defence Research and Development (Canada), the Neurotrauma Research Program, and the Department of Airforce (Asian Office of Aerospace Research and Development).

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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.

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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.

Location

Room 3.04, Psychology Building

Contact

(+61 8) 6488 1421

Lab leader

Lifespan Development 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, over 50 years of age, who agree to be contacted regarding participation in one or more of the Lifespan Lab's research studies.

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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?
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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.

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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?
Location

Room 1.10-1.12, Main Psychology Building

Phone

(+61 8) 6488 3636

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Personnel Assessment and Selection Laboratory

Personnel recruitment and selection are two of the most important components of staffing organisations, and yet so very often, organisations can fail to recruit strong applicants to fill their vacancies or they choose a candidate who turns out later to be poorly suited to the role.

Hosted in this laboratory are several research streams that ultimately aim to improve personnel selection.

These include understanding:

  • the factors that motivate people to distort their responses to psychometric assessments (for example faking)
  • how to frame recruitment messages to attract people with desired characteristics (especially in volunteer organisations)
  • the effect of practice and retesting on the validity of cognitive ability assessments
  • how applicants to jobs react to different types of job-related assessments
  • the role of socialisation practices in inducting new recruits more effectively
  • how our personalities affect the way we go about our work, and how we interact with others.
Contacts

Sensory Neuroscience Attention and Perception (SNAP) Lab

Dr Jason Bell is the Head of the SNAP lab. Research interests within the SNAP lab involves three distinct arms (visual perception, clinical research, and sensory neuroscience). Current projects in each of these areas are described below. Enquiries about any SNAP lab projects below should be directed to Dr Jason Bell.

Perception research

My research considers how the human visual system processes shapes and objects for recognition. Recognition is accomplished through the coordinated activation of distinct brain regions. Projects seek to discover what information is represented at each stage of processing.

I am interested in:

  • Studying the role of hemispheric specialization in the processing of symmetry
  • The time course of visual perception. How fast and for how long do discrete visual mechanisms process content?
  • The properties of the mechanisms processing visual number
  • Serial dependencies in visual perception. How and when is past information used in the processing of the present?
Clinical research

I am interested in studying abnormalities of perception within particular groups. Together with Associate Professors Elizabeth Rieger (ANU) and Dr Sue Byrne (UWA) I am undertaking research to understand the relationship between biases in perception and or attention, and eating disorder symptomology, or obesity.

Current research interests here include:

  • Attentional biases to high and low calorie foods or to particular body shapes
  • Biases in the perceived healthiness of foods, or in the perceived size of female bodies
  • Attentional retraining procedures to reduce or null maladaptive processing strategies in relation to the above visual cues

Together with Associate Professor Carmela Pestell (UWA) I am conducting studies to better our understanding of the relationship between ADHD and altered time perception.

Current research interests here include:

  • Studies retraining timing abilities
  • Studies examining the role of emotional regulation in ADHD symptomology and time perception
Sensory neuroscience

Understanding functional specialization in the brain is a fundamental goal of Neuroscience and Psychology. My lab currently offers opportunities to study the effects neurosynchronization and of noninvasive cortical stimulation on perception, and behaviour.

Current research projects and collaborations are utilising:

  • Neuroscience techniques such as transcranial direct current stimulation, or tDCS to investigate the correlates of attention and perception
  • Neurosynchronization techniques to understand the role of rhythmic brain activity in various aspects of attention, perception and action, with a focus on theta and alpha bands
 

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Last updated:
Friday, 24 November, 2017 11:41 AM

http://www.psychology.uwa.edu.au/1018092