Associate Professor Phil Kavanagh

Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

Anything in the area of evolutionary psychological models of psychopathology


Research activity per year

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Personal profile


I am an Associate Professor in Clinical Psychology at the University of Canberra, former Associate Professor of Evolutionary Psychology at ISN Psychology and former Principal ISN Research Fellow at the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health. My other previous experiences include being the 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). While at UniSA I lectured across both the undergraduate and postgraduate psychology programs, provided research supervision to honours, master’s, and PhD students, and clinical supervision to students in the clinical program. I am still an Adjunct Senior Lecturer the University of South Australia

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. 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.

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

Education/Academic qualification

PhD, University of Canterbury

Award Date: 17 Dec 2008

Bachelor, University of Canterbury

Award Date: 17 Apr 2003

External positions

Adjunct, University of South Australia

8 Jan 2018 → …


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