Rick van der Zwan BSc(Hons) PhD(USyd) 

Associate Professor Rick van der Zwan obtained a BSc from the University of Sydney. His
majors were in Psychology and Anatomy and he went on to achieve First Class Honours in
Psychology. Then, under the supervision of Professor Peter Wenderoth, Rick completed his
PhD. He worked on Binocular Rivalry, examining the neural mechanisms by which information
from both eyes are integrated to give coherent perceptions, led to his winning a
postdoctoral appointment with Professor Esther Peterhans in the Department of Neurology
at the University Hospital in Zurich. There Rick worked on monkey models of visual
cortical processing with Professor Peterhans and Dr Rudi Baumann. 

In 1995 Rick was invited to take up a lectureship in the Department of Psychology at the
University of Sydney. In 2001 he moved to James Cook University where he was campus
coordinator and Head of Discipline on the Cairns campus. Rick moved to Southern Cross
University (SCU) in 2003 to lead the development of the research programme of the
Department of Psychology and has set up the University's first research labs in
Coffs Harbour. 

At SCU Rick and Dr Anna Brooks have developed strong and internationally recognised
research and teaching programmes in cognitive neuroscience. They have active
collaborations with Professor Olaf Blanke, Head of the Laboratory of Cognitive
Neuroscience at the Brain-Mind Institute, Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne of the
Eccole and with Professor Karl Verfaillie of the Department of Experimental Psychology,
Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium. As a result of that work, and other programmes
of research, Rick was invited, in 2005, to be a Priority Area Leader of the Australian
Research Council sponsored Human Communication Science Network Perception and Action
Priority Area. He and his team are currently investigating the neural mechanisms by which
humans recognise the actions of others. 

More recently, Dr Anna Brooks established a collaboration with Professor Jesse Purdy of
Southwestern University. Rick, Anna, and Jesse, working with Paige Sinclair (CEO of the
Pet Porpoise Pool, the Oceanarium at Coffs Harbour) have secured funding to develop an
Aquatic Animal Behavioural Research project on-site at the Pet Porpoise Pool. That
research project will see established a special facility for investigating the affect on
behaviours of various aquatic species (fishes and cetaceans) of changes to environmental
pressures. Planning is now underway for the facility and it is expected to be on-line as
an operational research facility early in 2009. 

In addition to that work his research group is working on aspects of mental health care
in Local Area Health Services and on the efficacy of parenting programmes being
implemented in Australia. In particular, and in collaboration with Professor Tom Phelan,
Rick and Dr Anna Brooks successfully applied for a collaborative grant to evaluate 1-2-3
Magic as an implemented and as an independently directed parenting programme. 

Journal articles


Dusted community: piloting a virtual peer-to-peer support community for people with an asbestos-related diagnosis and their families (with Desiree Kozlowski, Steve Provost, and J Tucker), The Journal of Psychosocial Oncology (2014)


Hands as sex cues: sensitivity measures, male bias measures, and implications for sex perception mechanisms (with Justin M. Gaetano, Duncan C. Blair, and Anna Brooks), PLoS One (2014)

Sex perceptions, or more particularly, sex discriminations and sex categorisations, are high-value social behaviours. They...



A survey of patient understanding and expectations of sedation/anaesthesia for colonoscopy (with N Chatman, J R. Sutherland, and N Abraham), Anaesthesia and Intensive Care (2013)

One hundred and fifty-nine adult patients undergoing elective colonoscopy in a major regional hospital were...



Gender-selective neural populations: evidence from event-related fMRI repetition suppression (with Samantha K. Podrebarac, Melvyn A. Goodale, and Jacqueline C. Snow), Experimental Brain Research (2013)

Accurate recognition of gender in another individual is integral to successful human social interaction and...



Sex discriminations made on the basis of ambiguous visual cues can be affected by the presence of an olfactory cue (with Graeme Hacker and Anna Brooks), BMC Psychology (2013)

Background: Almost every interpersonal interaction is mediated by the sex of the individuals involved. Visual,...



Current trends in experimental and applied psychology, (2012)

Psychology is a discipline with a rich and proud history of research, both pure and...


Current trends in technology and society, (2012)

The effects of technologies on societies in which they are developed define cultures. With that...


Book chapters

Innovation in education (with Bruce A. Knight), Teaching innovations supporting student outcomes in the 21st century (2013)

Science is innovation and innovation is the future (with Bruce A. Knight), Teaching innovations supporting student outcomes in the 21st century (2013)

Beyond sensation: current thinking on sensory pleasure (with Desiree Kozlowski and Anna Brooks), Current trends in experimental and applied psychology (2012)

Pleasure is something most of us value very highly. However, although we may spend considerable...


Emotional expression in speech, dance, and instrumental music: implications for singers (with J Orlando), Current trends in experimental and applied psychology (2012)

Olfactory perception, human chemosignals, and social behaviours (with Graeme Hacker), Current trends in experimental and applied psychology (2012)

Conference publications

Auditory biological motion processing: the eyes alone don't have it! (with Lauren Bartsch, David Cottrell, and Anna Brooks), 42nd Australian Psychological Society Annual Conference, Brisbane, Qld., 25-29 September. (2007)

Concern about the use of the new ecological paradigm scale on Australian populations (with Hannah Whittle and Anna Brooks), 42nd Australian Psychological Society Annual Conference, Brisbane, Qld., 25-29 September. (2007)

Interhemispheric differences in processing biological motion cues (with Anna Brooks, Elena Clara, Alira Capararo, and Coralia MacHatch), 42nd Australian Psychological Society Annual Conference, Brisbane, Qld., 25-29 September. (2007)

Local and global cues are incorporated into perceptions of biological motion (with Russell J. Reid, Anna Brooks, and Olaf Blanke), 42nd Australian Psychological Society Annual Conference, Brisbane, Qld., 25-29 September. (2007)

Seclusion – Demographics and beyond (with Lynn Davies and Doug Andrews), 42nd Australian Psychological Society Annual Conference (2007)