Associate Professor Phil Kavanagh

Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

Anything in the area of evolutionary psychological models of psychopathology


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Personal profile


I am an Associate Professor in Clinical Psychology and Discipline Lead at the University of Canberra (UC), and the current Deputy Chair for HODSPA. Prior positions include Head of Psychology and Associate Professor of Evolutionary at ISN Psychology, Acting Associate Head of School Research, Discipline Head Psychology, and Program Director for the Master of Psychology (Clinical) program in the School of Psychology, Social Work and Social Policy at the University of South Australia (UniSA); I am still an Adjunct Associate Professor at UniSA. 

I completed my degree at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch (NZ) in 1999 as a "mature age" student, graduating in 2002 with a BSc(Hons) 1st class in Psychology. From there, I went on to complete both a PhD and Postgraduate Diploma in Clinical Psychology (PGDipClinPsych) concurrently; completing both in 2008. Shortly after completing my qualifications, I started a conjoined position with Central Queensland University as a Lecturer in Clinical Psychology and Queensland Health as a Service Evaluation and Research Coordinator for Evolve Therapeutic Services (ETS). My professional experiences have been varied and diverse, covering university settings, hospital settings, residential treatment facilities, clinical research projects, and clinical practice. I have worked in government organisations, non-government organisations, and privately.

My research interests are in the areas that overlap between social, personality, and clinical psychology broadly. I have two intersecting streams of research that I have been developing to lead toward a program of research investigating psychopathology from an evolutionary psychology perspective. My first stream of research is testing and expanding sociometer theory—an evolutionary theory about the role and function of self-esteem, how it is associated with social acceptance and rejection, and how this might influence subsequent mental health problems (e.g., anxiety, depression). My second stream of research is examining the darker sides of personality, specifically the behavioural and psychological correlates and consequences of narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. This second stream of research is also couched in an evolutionary framework and influenced by Life History Theory. These two streams of research, alongside my interest and practice in clinical psychology have led me to start investigating the aetiology of psychopathology from a life history theory perspective. More recently I have been engaged in research looking at the unmet supportive care needs for cancer patients, and the psychological aspects associated with this.

Research interests

  • Evolutionary Psychology
  • Personality Psychology
  • Dark Triad
  • Narcissism
  • Sociometer Theory
  • Self-Esteem
  • Social Psychology
  • Life History Evolution
  • Life History Theory
  • Psychopathology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Developmental Psychopathology
  • Cancer

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being

Education/Academic qualification

PhD, University of Canterbury

Award Date: 17 Dec 2008

University of Canterbury

Award Date: 17 Dec 2008

Bachelor, The relations between social exclusion, friendship investment and state self-esteem, University of Canterbury

Feb 1999Nov 2002

Award Date: 17 Apr 2003

External positions

Deputy Chair, Heads of Departments and Schools of Psychology Association (HODSPA)

20 Oct 2023 → …

Adjunct, University of South Australia

8 Jan 2018 → …


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