James Cook University

Named after the famous 18th century British explorer who first charted the north Queensland territorial waters, which include the Great Barrier Reef, James Cook University was established in 1970 and today serves over 12,000 students at its two main campuses in Townsville and Cairns in northern Queensland – one of the fastest growing regions of Australia. The Townsville campus is situated in the suburb of Douglas – eight miles from the city centre – on a 386 hectare setting of natural bush and parkland, whilst JCU’s Cairns Campus is situated in a spectacular setting surrounded on three sides by rainforest-covered mountains. JCU has 598 academic staff and is particularly renowned for research and advisory work in disciplines relevant to the tropics. It plays host to about 1,000 overseas students from more than 70 countries (10% of all American study-abroad students in Australia come to JCU).

The School of Psychology is committed to providing an exemplary learning environment that promotes and encourages quality teaching and research excellence, while maintaining breadth and depth of study in basic and applied psychology. The Psychology discipline at JCU goes back to 1974, with the creation of the Department of Behavioural Sciences under the Headship of Professor W. Scott, a social psychologist. The Department became a School of Behavioural Sciences in 1990, and in July, 1991, a separate Department of Psychology and Sociology was established. Professor Colin Ryan was appointed to the then vacant Chair of Psychology in July, 1999, and an autonomous School of Psychology was established on the first day of the new millenium. Since then, the School has experienced tremendous growth in both its undergraduate and graduate student in-take, together with an almost doubling of dedicated research space. We have forged strong links with the new JCU Medical School and the equally new forensic unit at Townsville Regional Hospital adjacent to the main campus. The School presently has 14 full-time faculty members, as well as three half-time appointments with other entities such as Queensland Health and the Institute of Sport and Exercise.

The School of Psychology presently offers, on both the Townsville and Cairns Campuses, three- and four-year APS (Australian Psychological Society) accredited programs leading to the Bachelor of Psychology, Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Social Science, and Bachelor of Arts (Indigenous) degrees. Our four-year sequence, which may be undertaken with Honors or as a Postgraduate Diploma, provides the basic qualifications for Associate Membership of the APS and for (conditional) registration as a psychologist in the State of Queensland. Entry to the fourth year is competitive, and all students at this level participate in the research culture of the School by carrying-out research projects in collaboration with staff as well as attending weekly research colloquia.

The School of Psychology offers innovative postgraduate coursework programs leading to the MPsych and DPsych degrees in clinical psychology, health psychology, forensic psychology and clinical geropsychology. They have been designed for maximum flexibility and convenience, to suit busy people needing to combine their professional development with other commitments. All coursework subjects are available in convenient, intensive-workshop mode, either on campus in Townsville or, for some international students, in their home country. International students can also choose to attend Townsville for some or all of their coursework. Facilities for professional students comprise the Psychology Clinic-a reception area and several consulting rooms equipped with closed-circuit video facilities-a well-stocked psychological test library; a sophisticated audio-video monitoring, recording and editing suite; computer laboratory; and a postgraduate student common room. A new general hospital is located adjacent the campus, providing outstanding training, treatment, and research opportunities, including a secure 31-bed forensic unit.

Our PhD program follows the British model of independent research involving 3-4 years of full-time study. Candidates are supported with a variety of cross-university Workshops involving the acquisition of generic skills useful to the completion of their thesis and to their future careers as scholar-researchers; for example, Workshops in advanced statistics, getting published, and grant writing skills. Applications to the Head of School, who will consider the fit between the applicant’s interests and abilities, and the School’s human and material resources for completion of the thesis.

The School of Psychology has excellent research laboratories in Townsville, including numerous observation suites; electrically shielded psychophysiological recording facilities; a controlled-environment research suite; and specialised visual perception, social psychology, behavioural neuroscience, human performance and evolutionary psychology laboratories. The new on-campus Townsville Hospital houses state-of-the-art neural imaging equipment. Cairns offers good research facilities in a new science research and teaching building containing a purpose-built drugs and human performance research facility; additional cognitive neuroscience and perception laboratories; and a dedicated bioassay facility. Research foci within the School include:

  • Vision Science. Mechanisms of time perception; tilt aftereffects and illusions; detection of skin cancers; attentional processes in symmetry detection; determinants of subjective contour; retinotropic maps and ocular dominance columns; depth perception; stereoscopic illusory contours; surface configuration cue-conflict effects on the seen stereoscopic slant of planar surfaces; outline shape distortion in stereo-rotated surfaces.
  • Social Cognition. Dialogical model of the self; eyewitness testimony; how the politeness and informativeness functions of language influence social judgmental task performance; conversation structure and processes; the Abnormal Conditions Focus model of causal attribution; development of a scale measuring people’s beliefs about collective guilt; adolescents’ self-presentation of ego identity; autobiographical memory processes.
  • Evolutionary. Evolution of self-deception and cooperation; human mate selection strategies; adaptations of development; the role of friends in disseminating (accurate and inac-curate) information about potential mates; how cooperation is related to the maturation of friendships in childhood; relationships among birth order, parental investment, and personality characteristics; longitudinal investigation of hormonal changes accompanying physical and psychological growth.
  • Cognitive Neuroscience. Cognitive locus of drug effects on human performance; memory search; investigation of Baddeley’s working memory model; working memory and frontal lobe functioning in relation to psychiatric symptoms; the effects of alcohol on information processing; the identification and assessment of adult attention deficit disorder; neurological correlates of counterfactual reasoning; cognitive representation of orthography; cross language comparisons of language processing; neural network models of memory; effect of mood and arousal on the cognitive processing of information; models of attention and executive functioning; neuropsychological outcome after CABG and mild TBI.
  • Health. Cognitive processes and aging; neuropsychology of the psychiatric disorders; treatment of chronic pain; stress and coping responses to natural disasters; immune resistance in ageing, circadian cycles and performance; significance of immune interactions with the neurohormones, melatonin and cortisol; menopausal health; postnatal depression; daily hassles, coping style and psychological distress; self-esteem, body image and weight; stress-moderating health benefits of leisure; drug dependency behaviour; pharmacology of alcohol addictive behaviours; learning models of drug taking; behavioural medicine; psychological dimensions of cancer; sports and exercise psychology.


Marie Caltabiano
Joann Lukins
Nerina Caltabiano
David Mitchell
David Cottrell
Jennifer Promnitz
Deborah Graham
Peter Raggatt
Janet Greeley
Colin Ryan
Maria Hennessy
Ben Slugoski
Win Hman
Michele Surbey
Mark Kebbel
Ann Swinbourne
Barbara Kennedy
Kingsley Tonkin
Rick van der Zwan

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