UQ is a world leader in Psychology and Cognitive Science research including the basic processes underlying attention, decision-making, development of children’s thinking and social awareness, the wellbeing of older people, family processes, social identities, stress and work-related psychology.

Our researchers are of outstanding calibre, with numerous accolades including: 15 Fellows of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia; five Fellows of the American Association of Psychological Science; numerous Australian Research Council (ARC) Fellowships, including two prestigious Laureate Fellows; eight Future Fellows; a Queenslander of the Year; and a Member of the Order of Australia (AM).

UQ collaborates with more than 150 government, industry and NGO partners in which our research expertise builds practical outcomes. Partners include Airservices Australia, Australian Federal Police, Australian Red Cross Blood Service, Endeavour Foundation, Queensland Health, Queensland Rail, Relationships Australia (Queensland), and The Salvation Army.

Our psychology and cognitive science research has had far-reaching impact and commercial success. The Triple P–Positive Parenting Program is one of the world’s leading systems of parenting support and intervention: Triple P strengthens communities by enhancing parents’ skills and children’s developmental outcomes and prosperity. More than 74,000 professionals have delivered Triple P to more than 7 million children and their families in 25 culturally-diverse countries. More than 150 evaluation studies in multiple countries continue to enrich the research on which the program is based. Other successful commercial assets resulting from UQ Psychology research include the text analytical software Leximancer and the Geriatric Anxiety Inventory.  

UQ has particular expertise in the areas of:

  • Cognitive neuroscience
  • Basic perceptual and cognitive processes
  • Higher cognitive processes (such as decision-making)
  • Human development
  • Social psychology
  • Organisational behaviour
  • Health psychology
  • Clinical psychology

Psychology and Cognitive Science in brief

  • More than 70 full-time equivalent researchers, with collaborators in fields including neurosciences, and social and political sciences
  • More than 160 PhD and MPhil students in 2014
  • More than 1330 publications since 2008
  • More than $58 million in research funding since 2008
  • Psychology research rated at the highest level – well above world standard – in the 2012 Excellence in Research for Australia exercise. Cognitive Science research rated above world standard, the highest rating awarded nationally.

Highlights of UQ Psychology and Cognitive Science

Understanding fundamental developmental processes throughout the lifespan

Research into healthy development explores the fundamental developmental processes throughout the human life span. Focus is given to both normal developmental processes and disordered development such as processes underpinning acquired brain injury, autism, family dysfunction and cognitive disorders of older age.

Observation-based research, from laboratories, clinics and real-world settings, underpins both development of theory and of evidence-based tools for assessment and intervention, which are then evaluated in collaborating clinics, hospitals, schools and health services.

UQ research spans the range of interventions from one-on-one clinical work to whole-of-population approaches to preventing problems and promoting healthy child development and positive parenting.

Understanding social attitudes, prejudices, and organisational change

Researchers examine how social factors shape people’s attitudes, emotions and behaviours, with a strong focus on understanding the basic processes underlying attitudes, group membership, intergroup relations, prejudice and stereotyping, and social identity. This work informs a range of research activities in organisational contexts and other applied contexts that is helping to advance our practical understanding of topics including stress and burnout, and positive aspects of leadership and communication, and the management of workplace diversity and health.

Research conducted by ARC Australian Laureate Fellow Professor Alex Haslam with other researchers exemplifies these strengths – examining psychology in organisations, with an emphasis on the contribution of groups and group membership to leadership, motivation, decision-making, negotiation and productivity. This work has contributed to a much clearer understanding of how teams can work effectively together. Related work also examines the social psychology of stereotyping, prejudice, and tyranny — exploring the role of social identity and self-processes in intergroup relations and conflict.

Neural and cognitive underpinnings of human experience

Research in perception, cognition and cognitive neuroscience reveals mental processes underlying the human experience and maps the relationships between brain and thoughts, feelings and actions. This work spans basic processes such as attention, sensation and perception, through simple cognitive tasks, to complex decision-making. Researchers in the School of Psychology work with both healthy participants and people with various acquired and developmental clinical conditions, such as stroke, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, autism spectrum disorder, and hyperactivity.

For instance, research led by ARC Australian Laureate Fellow Professor Jason Mattingley addresses two broad questions concerning the nature of human selective attention. First, how does the brain filter sensory stimuli so that only relevant inputs are selected for further processing? Second, what are the consequences of such selective processing for conscious perception and action? He and his team approach these questions from a number of perspectives: by studying individuals with acquired and developmental disorders of attention, such as spatial neglect and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder; by using brain imaging techniques such as fMRI, Event Related Potentials (ERPs) and near-infrared spectroscopy; and by applying transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to stimulate specific regions of the brain thought to be involved in attentional control.

The research has important implications for a number of real-world endeavours, including the diagnosis and treatment of individuals with attention deficits due to brain disease; the design of more efficient systems for conveying information to human operators; and in helping to predict preference and choice in consumer behaviour.