Thesis topics and supervisors available in 2017

Supervisor and student

Find a thesis topic and supervisor. Staff members and their research interests and topic areas are listed below by campus.

Please note: it is your responsibility to ensure that an Agreement to Supervise Postgraduate Research Form (361 KB) is completed and submitted by the beginning of the semester in which you intend to begin your research.

Auckland campus

Siautu Alefaio-Tugia

As a Pacific pracademic in psychology my research area focuses on Pacific indigenous humanitarian development. The Pacific diaspora are resilient communities and develop innovative responses to everyday challenges. My research positions these community responses within psychology as Pacific indigenous humanitarian development. Key focus areas of my research within this platform are:

  • Pacific community partnerships: Affirming Works (AW) & Community café social enterprise, NZ American Football Federation Concussion project, Tu manu Early childhood development
  • Pacific indigenised forensic therapeutic rehabilitation
  • Pacific faith-based approaches to family violence prevention and intervention
  • Pacific disaster risk resilience, response and management
  • Pacific ageing

Heather Buttle

My research background is in cognitive psychology (including: attention, working memory, face recognition, emotion, and applied cognition). However, my current research program is focused on understanding cognitive aspects of mindfulness/meditation practices. I would be very keen to hear from students interested in this area. The kinds of question I am interested in answering are:

  • What is the role of attention and working memory in mindfulness/meditation practices.
  • How is emotion regulation affected by these practices.
  • How are moral evaluations affected by these practices.
  • And how are the above questions affected by different types of practice.

I’m unavailable for Hons/Masters supervision in 2017, but I’m open to well-developed doctoral proposals on the topic of mindfulness?

Pete Cannon

My research focuses on the relationship between emotions, thoughts, and behaviours. In the past I have investigated moral emotions, social touch, and the ease (fluency) of interacting with our environment. I use a range of methods to measure emotion and these direct physiological measures in the lab: this includes measuring activity from facial muscles that we use to express emotions (electromyography) and measuring stress and relaxation (perspiration, heart activity, skin temperature). A research direction that I am pursuing is food and emotion and I’m happy to supervise students in this area.

Stuart Carr

The organizational psychology of decent work and sustainable livelihood, including living wages, income equality, workplace inclusion following mobility, sustainable consumption and all of the above as they relate to poverty eradication.  The organizational psychology of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (or “SDGs”).  Please see the webpage for EPIC (End Poverty & Inequality) for more details. Happy to co-supervise with Professor Darrin Hodgetts.

Kerry Chamberlain

I have a substantial on-going supervision load but am always interested to work with keen students who have a critical and qualitative approach to research topics in health and/or material culture in everyday life, especially if they relate to medicalisation, pharmaceuticalisation, medications, media, memory or food in some way, so feel free to make contact, discuss possibilities, and convince me to take you on!

Richard Fletcher

I am interested in supervising and topics for honours, masters and doctoral students relating to:

  • Sport psychology issues, such as body image, coping, self-efficacy, collective efficacy. Self-esteem etc
    • Potential topics (I currently have students working in similar areas):
      • body image and social media images
      • body image and retirement from sport/performance/arts etc
      • Psychological effect of cosmetic surgery
      • measurement of social anxiety in adolescents
      • internet pornography and its effect on adolescents males
      • Emotional recognition and intellectual disability.
  • Research methodologies and their applications e.g, confirmatory factor analysis, multilevel modelling, longitudinal multilevel modelling, latent means analysis
  • Psychometric analyses using classical test theory and item response theory, as well as differential item functioning

I am also happy to work on supervision panels in as either primary or secondary.

Bev Haarhoff

Happy to supervise psychotherapy related projects, Low intensity CBT interventions applied to different NZ populations, Self-practice/ self-reflection as an experiential clinical training intervention, therapist self- care, the application of Low Intensity training to different cultural contexts.

Darrin Hodgetts

Topics include urban poverty, issues of work and health, homelessness and social services. Happy to co-supervise with Professor Stuart Carr.

James Liu

My research is in the areas of cross-cultural, political, and social psychology. I have a particular interest in three specific areas, the first being Digital Influence (the impact of information technology, especially the internet, on psychological functioning & social relationships), the second being Identity and History (how social representations of history influence the national psychology of a people), and the third being Action Research (psychological research in collaboration with communities that follows a cyclical process of planning-action-reflection-revision).

In 2017, will be working with the Ministry of Social Development and doing Action Research with hard-to-reach Maori communities that are supported by the E Tu Whanau programme.

Angela McNaught

Not available for supervision in 2017.

Paul Merrick

Unavailable for new supervision in 2017.

Clifford Van Ommen

Methodologically, I am always interested in supervising keen students interested in (critical) qualitative methods, including phenomenology, narrative analysis, discourse analysis, deconstruction and dialectical analysis. My research and supervision interests include, broadly speaking, Critical Neuroscience and Critical Psychology. More specifically, I am currently focussing on the identity processes and sense making of and about South African migrants in New Zealand, the critical historical analysis of Psychology in New Zealand, and the intersection between music and subjectivity. I would also be interested in supervising projects focussing on poverty, migrant and refugee issues and, within neuropsychology, the problem of concussion.

Matt Williams

I am available to supervise keen students with quantitative inclinations. My interests are primarily in two areas:

  1. Conceptual issues in quantitative methodology, especially with respect to measurement and data analysis
  2. Psychology and climate change

I am also available to provide methodological support for quantitative projects more generally.

Mei Williams:

Unavailable for 2017.

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Manawatu campus

Health And Ageing Research Team (HART)

Quantitative analysis of existing survey data

Students who choose to study one of these topics are expected to have good quantitative analysis skills, having completed 175.746 (multivariate data analysis) or equivalent.  They will be expected to develop a theoretical basis for the research question and conduct sophisticated multivariate and/or longitudinal data analysis.

Professor Christine Stephens

Social Networks

  • The relationships between social network types, housing, and health of older people across time.
  • Developing a measure of social networks among older people.
  • The relationship between chronic health conditions and loneliness

Professor Fiona Alpass

Caregiving and Wellbeing

  • Combining work and caregiving: the impact on health and wealth over time .


  • Cross-country comparisons of reported loneliness in older adults.

Older Workers

  • The impact of work –family conflict on health.
  • Flexible work opportunities and job satisfaction

Dr Juliana Mansvelt

Place and Wellbeing

  • Geographical and place based differences in relation to loneliness, quality of life and wellbeing.

Leisure and Retirement

  • Changes in leisure experiences (recreational activities, life engagement, voluntary work) after retirement.       

Dr Joanne Taylor

Driving Cessation

  • The process of driving cessation over time.

Dr Polly Yeung

Aging and Disability

  • Using the ICF-based Framework to develop a model of Functional Components and Contextual Factors.
  • The relationship between visual impairment, mobility, loneliness, social/community engagement and quality of life

Dr Andy Towers

Drug and Alcohol Consumption

  • Factors predicting change in alcohol consumption in older New Zealanders.
  • The relationship between alcohol consumption, health, and healthcare utilisation in older New Zealanders.  
  • Drug use in older adults (medication use, illicit drug use)
  • International comparisons of older adults drinking patterns

Mr Brendan Stevenson

Māori and Marae

  • Changing roles on the marae with retirement: Who’s doing the mahi?

Qualitative Research Topics

Students interested in pursuing these topics must have a sound background and interest in qualitative methodologies. They will be expected to develop a sophisticated methodological basis for their research question and may choose one of the following topics which are listed with potential supervisors.

Professor Christine Stephens

Housing Preferences for Older People

  • Older people’s social connections or isolation in relation to housing arrangements.
  • Older people’s views of neighbourhood quality.

Dr Juliana Mansvelt

Ageing in Place

  • The role of mundane commodities, objects, and commodity practices in shaping experiences and meanings of ageing in place (including through shifts in dwelling circumstance).
  • Experiences of dwelling in rural and other places


  • Contribution, productivity and pleasure in daily activities (including shopping).


  • The uptake and use of ICT technologies by older people

Dr Mary Breheny

Experiences of Ageing & Ageing in Place

  • Experiences of ageing in New Zealand among those over 85.
  • The construction of old age.
  • What it means to ‘Age in place’.
  • Acceptability of technology to support ageing in place.
  • Experience of ageing in residential care.

Don Baken

I am part of a team that is involved in applied psychological research in the health setting. Investigating both adults and children affected by illness as well as the health professionals associated. Our main illness groups include cancer, diabetes, cardiac, respiratory, and renal reflecting the clinical work carried out by the Health Conditions and/or Cancer Psychology Services.

Current specific projects involve:

  • The validation of a measure to screen for distress in people with cancer, diabetes and renal disease (quantitative and qualitative Honours projects).
  • An investigation into the psychological assessments done for renal transplants.
  • An assessment of an app based screening and note taking form used in an oncology ward.
  • An investigation of the breaking of bad news within a surgical unit.

If you have other research ideas in similar areas we would be happy to discuss those with you.

Leigh Coombes

Full supervision load in 2017.

Aaron Drummond

I am a cognitive psychologist undertaking research in the area of media and communication psychology. I have a broad range of interests in this area, ranging from how various forms of interactive and passive media use influence people’s thoughts and emotions to the most effective methods for communicating information to others. I use both correlational and experimental methods coupled with a range of cognitive and behavioural measures in my research.

Currently I am undertaking research into the psychological effects of violent and non-violent videogames on cognition and behaviour, the effects of reinforcement structures in interactive media, and effective methods for the communication of science to the public.  I am happy to supervise students in these areas, or in media and communication psychology projects more broadly.

Ross Flett

Unable to take new students in 2017.

Dianne Gardner

Unable to take new students in 2017.

Gus Habermann

(i) Applied psychometrics (psychological measurement, testing, assessment; including occupational & organisational applications).

(ii) Psychology of language and communication, including applied research.

(iii) Language- and communication- relevant abilities (in the broader sense); communicative competence; antecedents & processes of miscommunication.

Jocelyn Handy

I am interested in supervising qualitative research in any area of organisational psychology. My current research interests are in the areas of temporary work, work/life balance, the New Zealand film industry and health service organisation.

Shane Harvey

I am part of a research team (Community Health in Practice and Service, CHiPS) based at the Massey University Psychology Clinic, Palmerston North. We are predominantly interested in applied research involving 1) practitioners’ emotional skills, practice techniques, treatment outcome research, mindfulness based therapies (Acceptance and commitment therapies, DBT), and 2) psychological practices with physical health conditions. I am able to supervise 2-3 students in the following areas for 2017:

Emotional skills in practice

  • The emotional skills required by therapists, physicians, NZDF officers/trainers, teachers, parents, ministers, and coaches, and how these emotional skills are linked to outcomes important to each group.
  • Profiling ruptures in therapy
  • The emotion regulation behaviours of children

Applied Psychological Practice

  • The application of mindfulness-based and transdiagnostic therapies. By way of example, we currently have two projects underway investigating the use of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) in AoD services and the military.
  • A priority project for 2017 is the creation of a statistical map of trans-paradigm psychological strategies
  • The application and efficacy of Focused Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (FACT) in primary health
  • Electronic psychological screening in primary health care or Police
  • eHealth therapies: Application and efficacy

Psychological practices with Health Conditions

  • A series of projects have been drawn up in collaboration with MidCentral Health DHB focusing on therapies with health conditions

Stephen Hill

There are three strands to my current research interests that I’d be happy to provide supervision in:

  1. Embodied and distributed cognition
  2. Cognition (particularly executive function) and environmental stressors
  3. The psychology of global climate change

I have three ready-to-go projects available for research students (particularly for Honours or Masters). These projects will need to be conducted in the labs on the Manawatu campus and the second and third projects involve the use of eyetracking equipment. No experience using an eyetracker is required or expected – we’ll provide training. Both projects are tied to existing research programmes in the school.

Task Switching and Working Memory

Our ability to successfully switch between tasks is a widely thought to be a kind of executive function and thus our ability to do this should correlate with our other executive function abilities like working memory. Yet research shows that this isn’t the case. This project examines some intriguing findings a PhD student has turned up in our lab that might help us solve this conundrum – this is a great opportunity to work with the small team of people on a project that fits into a broader research programme.

Dynamics of Distributed Remembering

Most memory research requires people to remember lists of words presented on a computer monitor. We’re interested in whether memory phenomena established using mainstream methods can be replicated when people are given the opportunity to exercise their memory capacities in a more ecologically valid ‘shopping’ context. We’ll use a mobile eyetracker to find out how people explore and use the environment whilst searching for remembered items.

Cognitive Biases in Map-based Navigation

This project examines the ways in which cognitive biases affect people’s ability to make sensible decisions about their location given visible landmark information and a map of the local area. We will use an eyetracker to establish how people use the maps when making decisions about their likely location. This research has practical applications to aviation psychology.

Sara Joice

Barbara Kennedy

Unavailable in 2017.

Ute Kreplin

Unavailable in 2017.

Mandy Morgan

Full supervision load in 2017.

Tracy Morison

I supervise work in the broad areas of social and health psychology.  I’m particularly interested in supervising critical health psychology topics using qualitative methods.

Sexual and reproductive health (SRH), including, but not limited to:

  • Decision-making
  • Gender, especially male roles and involvement in SRH
  • Youth SRH, especially contraception, abortion, and pregnancy
  • Sexuality / LGBTI health
  • Related topics like sexual violence, sex education, activism/advocacy, and service access and utilisation


  • Gender dynamics of care in households
  • Male roles and participation, especially fatherhood and fathering

Aging and childlessness (voluntary or involuntary).

Michael Philipp

I conduct research in the areas of social cognition, emotional expressions, and experimental social psychology. I mainly supervise projects that investigate the underlying processes that help humans function in a social world. I use experimental and correlational methods in conjunction with cognitive, behavioural, and biological measurements in my research.

I am happy to discuss research supervision on topics including: (A) how feeling socially excluded affects a person's emotional expressions, (B) understanding the emotional content of emoticons and emoji, and (C) uncovering hidden moderators of working memory's relationship with task switching.

I expect my Honours and Masters students to align their project closely to my own strengths; a familiarity with social psychological theory, cognitive science, and/or biological psychology will be helpful along with strong quantitative analysis abilities. Due to the time pressures associated with Honours and Masters research, students should begin planning their projects with me well in advance of undertaking their research.

I am looking for motivated students who want to do well and are willing to put in the time and effort to do so. I provide structured guidance throughout the research process, and I expect my students to attend regularly scheduled meetings throughout the year. My supervision focuses on professional development and growth rather than merely “surviving the degree”.

Kirsty Ross

My interest is in child, adolescent and family psychology, and clinical psychology. My specialty is in the psycho-social impact of long term health conditions, particularly cancer, with a special interest in palliative care. I have very limited capacity next year, but will consider projects that fit in with this.

Chris Stephens

Studies using existing longitudinal data with a large population sample (Quantitative).

  1. The relationships between social network types, housing, and health of older people across time.
  2. The relationship between chronic health conditions and loneliness (mediated and moderated by environmental variables and depression).
  3. The effects of housing characteristics on social participation among older people.
  4. The relationships between dietary quality and social networks and social support among older people.
Studies involving data collection (Qualitative (interviews and/or observation) and quantitative).
  1. The experiences of first time renters over 65 in Palmerston North.
  2. Older people’s views of neighbourhood quality.
  3. Validation of a measure of neighbourhood quality.

Natasha Tassell-Matamua

Full supervision load in 2017.

Jo Taylor

My research interests include most things in the clinical psychology arena, although I will generally focus my supervision on projects related to my research areas. I have an ongoing research programme on driving anxiety, and am starting to investigate driving anxiety and driving cessation in older adults (see HART projects). I am developing a new research area on consumer perspectives in clinical psychology.

Hukarere Valentine

Unavailable for thesis supervision in 2017.

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Wellington campus

Simon Bennett

Limited availability for supervision in 2017 however I am open to supervising projects that have an applied focus in the area of Māori mental health. In particular I am interested in research that aims to improve the quality of psychological services provided to Māori receiving mental health services.

John Fitzgerald

I am interested in supervising projects focusing on clinical psychology and professional practice. I am particularly interested in non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) and suicide, adolescent depression, family resilience, and mental health and sensory impairment (particularly vision impairment). My professional practice interests include monitoring change and measuring outcomes in therapy, barriers to evidence-based assessment and practice, professional ethics, and provision of clinical psychology services in primary care settings. I tend to employ a mixed-methods approach.

Ruth Gammon

Emma Hudson-Doyle

Unavailable in 2017.

David Johnston

Potential supervision topics

  •  Human responses to volcano, tsunami, earthquake and weather warnings,
  • Crisis decision-making
  • The role of public education and participation in building community resilience

Linda Jones

I am only interested in supervising topics related to dentistry – patients, dentists or staff (assistant/receptionist/practice manager) perspectives; or environmental psychology, and then preferably in the workplace or as non-pharmacological interventions for the well-being of with persons with dementia. Pick your method to suit the question you want to answer. My current projects  - which a student could join at Masters or Hons level, include why patients gag at the dentist – and an intervention for gagging; and looking at dental team dynamics, especially team vision and values, role conflicts and communication. Joining the collaboration for this latter project would most likely suit an I/O post grad or business psych major, but that is not essential.

I would welcome any student interested in mHealth and in particular turning a brief questionnaire, that is currently web delivered, into a smart phone app. It’s a validated intervention for children’s dental anxiety.

Janet Leathem

Antonia Lyons

I am interested in supervising research within the broad areas of social and health psychology. I’m particularly interested in research projects that take a critical approach (and use innovative methodologies) to topics such as digital technologies, social media, identity, gender, embodiment, alcohol consumption, and drinking cultures.

Raj Prasanna

Keen on  multidisciplinary socio-technical research in technology supporting disaster and emergency management.

My current research interests are in the areas of:

  1. Situation Awareness
  2. Human Computer Interaction and Ergonomics,
  3. Cognitive Task based requirements capturing,
  4. Design and usability of information system for supporting emergency management.

Jane Rovins

I am interested to supervise/co-supervise (undergrad through PhD):

Wellington Campus @ the Disaster Hub / JCDR

Topics include (but open to others along this theme)

  1. International disaster risk management
  2. International emergency management
  3. Policy and planning for development and disasters
  4. Sustainable development, specifically links to disaster and emergency recovery
  5. Private Sector role in disasters
  6. Quality review of training and impacts on practice
  7. Role of military in disasters and development
  8. The role of women as emergency managers

Tatiana Tairi

My research interests have been in the theory and practice of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, particularly in the associations between dysfunctional cognitive processing and psychopathology in youth, including diverse cultural groups, as well as in the characteristics of adolescents who have attempted suicide. I am also interested in supervising projects focussing on professional ethics and practice. I am open to ideas in these areas, and willing to discuss potential projects (mainly applying quantitative analysis) with students.

Ruth Tarrant

Psychosocial aspects of disasters and adverse life events (e.g., community and school education programmes, preparedness, coping, recovery); School focused topics (will consider a range of topics).

Ian deTerte

Keith Tuffin

I have supervised a diverse range of topics in the area of social psychology including: the language of racism, emotion, leadership, sperm donors, recovered memories, occupational choice, coping, attitudes to aging, deviance, burglary, gay cops, friendship patterns, community care, premenstrual change, discrimination and trans-sexuality, grief, suicidal bereavement, clinical psychology, sex workers, retirement villages, adolescent fatherhood, cardiovascular reactivity, anger, male violence, political occupation, infanticide, disabled people online, understandings of alcohol and alcoholism, non-suicidal self-injury,  media constructions of sexual abuse, sexuality and religion, social psychology of selecting flatmates, intergenerational debates about ageing and resources, accounting for terrorism, parental abuse, ritual abuse, men’s talk of separation, adolescent fatherhood, suicidal contagion, dialectical behaviour therapy groups, fears of fist time parents, shared custody and responsibility, and siblings of Down Syndrome children.

I will look at proposals to undertake qualitative research with students who are keen to work hard and complete high quality theses.  In 2017 I am keen to further develop existing literature around male preparedness for fatherhood but am also willing to discuss any ideas that may develop into a good thesis topic.

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