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Personal profile

Research Biography

I am a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Flinders University and lead the HAVIC Lab for Human, Artificial & Virtual Interactive Cognition.  

In my research, I use several methods to investigate the cognitive and neural processes that allow us to understand and interact with others. These include infrared eye-tracking, body tracking, immersive virtual reality, event-related potentials (ERPs) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). 

I am particularly interested in the perceptual (bottom-up) and psychological (top-down) factors that shape how we understand and use multiple non-verbal behaviours, including eye gaze and hand gestures, to coordinate our attention with others - a social function that we call "joint attention". This is a crucial social skill, because it allows us to share experiences with others, understand their visual and mental perspective, and learn socially during face-to-face interactions. 

We currently know very little about joint attention because it occurs during dynamic interactions, which are hard to simulate and study in experimental settings. To overcome this challenge, I have been developing virtual interfaces that can be used to simulate realistic, compelling and controlled social interactions in the lab and in neuroimaging environments. 

I am currently applying these techniques in a series of projects involving neurotypical and autistic children and adults. I also conduct studies with adults diagnosed with schizophrenia to understand the cause of difficulties that can often be experienced when evaluating social information displayed by others.

I hope that my research will advance our understanding of how the brain supports our capacity for social interaction, and why this may be difficult for some individuals with autism and schizophrenia. I provided an overview of this line of work in this article featured in Scientific American ​(see here). 

In a newer program of research, our lab is also studying how humans perceive and interact with artificial agents (e.g., virtual characters and physical robots). Here we are interrogating the many factors - including our beliefs and expectations - that influence how we understand and interact with artificial agents. We are also examining whether these agents can be useful in educational settings. 

I spoke briefly about my research program with the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia. You can hear me talk about my research in more detail here.


Completed Supervisions

HDR Students (Primary Supervision)

  • Kirilee Wagner (MRes, Macquarie University – 1st Place, University medal)                                                  
  • Ayeh Alhassan (MRes, Macquarie University)

HDR Students (Co-Supervision)

  • Irene Graafsma (PhD Student Project, Macquarie University)                                   
  • Inga Hameister (PhD Student Project, Macquarie University)
  • Martyna Chwaszczewska (MSc Neuroscience and Education, University of Bristol)

Psychology Honours Students (Primary Supervision)

  • Christine Inkley (B.Psych Hons., Macquarie University – 1st Place, University Medal)
  • Dean Spirou (Honours Student, Macquarie University)

Research Internships (Primary Supervision)

  • Amelia Munday (COGS3999 Intern, Macquarie University)
  • Bhairavi Tahir (COGS3999 Intern, Macquarie University)
  • Adriana Haddad (MEDI3901 Undergraduate Intern, Macquarie University)
  • Eva von Butler (DAAD Rise Intern, Osnabrück University, Germany)
  • Torben Rehmer (DAAD Rise Intern, Paderborn University, Germany)  
  • Kristina Haira (MEDI7041 Undergraduate Intern, Macquarie University)
  • Sharlene Zeederberg (COGS3250 Undergraduate Intern, Macquarie University
  • Samuel Bezzina (COGS3999 Intern, Macquarie University) 
  • Vivian Wu (COGS3999 Intern, Macquarie University)
  • Michael Gurvevich (COGS3999 Intern, Macquarie University)
  • Nicolai Hermann (DAAD Rise Intern, Osnabrück University, Germany)
  • Glicyr Perez (COGS3250 Undergraduate Intern, Macquarie University)
  • Jessica Kenny (COGS3999 Intern, Macquarie University)  
  • Glicyr Perez (COGS3999 Intern, Macquarie University)
  • Silas Collard (COGS3999 Intern, Macquarie University)  
  • Courtney Munro (COGS3999 Intern, Macquarie University)
  • Kirilee Wagner (PACE MRes Yr 1 Intern, Macquarie University) 
  • Ayeh Alhasan (PACE MRes Yr 1 Intern, Macquarie University)
  • Christine Inkley (Undergraduate Intern, Macquarie University)
  • Maia Zucco (Undergraduate Intern, Macquarie University) 
  • Aydin Anic (Undergraduate Intern, Macquarie University)


Team Members

Current HDR Students (Primary Supervision)

  • Friederike Charlotte Hechler (PhD, Macquarie University & Universität Potsdam)
  • Colleen Murphy (PhD, Macquarie University)  
  • Hannah Cahill (Mres, Macquarie University)
  • Kristina Haira (Mres, Macquarie University)

Current HDR Students (Co-Supervision)

  • Luca Leisten (PhD, ETH Zurich)
  • Ayeh Alhasan (PhD, Macquarie University)


Career Highlights

  • Best ECR Platform Presentation – Australasian Society for Social and Affective Neuroscience (2023)

  • Paul Bourke Award – Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia (2021)

  • Early Career Researcher of the Year, Macquarie University – Honourable Mention (2019)

  • Department of Cognitive Science Research and Teaching Service Award, Macquarie University (2018)

  • Staff Awards: Excellence in Higher Degree Research Award, Macquarie University – Winner (2017)

  • Excellence in Higher Degree Research Award, Macquarie University (2017)

  • David Hall Prize (Best Thesis), Faculty of Human Sciences, Macquarie University – Winner (2016)

  • Invited Speaker at Human Sciences Graduation Ceremony, Macquarie University (2016)

  • Vice Chancellor’s Commendation for Academic Excellence, Macquarie University (2016)

  • ARC CCD Excellence in Research Awards – Publication – Winner (2015)

  • Department of Cognitive Science Postgraduate Research Grant Commendation – Winner (2015)

  • ARC CCD Excellence in Research Student Award – Oral Presentation (2014)

  • Department of Cognitive Science Postgraduate Research Grant Commendation – Winner (2014)


Education/Academic qualification

PhD, Macquarie University

Award Date: 21 Apr 2016

Bachelor (Honours), Macquarie University

Award Date: 20 Apr 2012

External positions

Honorary Senior Research Fellow, Macquarie University

1 Jan 2024 → …


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Research Areas

  • Psychology


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