Fundamental neurocognitive mechanisms underpinning creative thought

Project opportunity

This Earmarked Scholarship project is aligned with a recently awarded Category 1 research grant. It offers you the opportunity to work with leading researchers and contribute to large projects of national significance.

Creative thought is fundamental to human advances throughout history and scientific discovery. It is also needed in daily life to adapt behaviour and solve everyday problems. The cognitive and neural bases of creative thought have not been explored in detail. Most past work in cognitive science has drawn a consistent distinction between needing a knowledge system to generate possibilities and an evaluation system to analyse and refine these ideas. The interplay between these two distinct systems results in productive creative thought. However, the knowledge source and the evaluation mechanisms, and their neural bases, are under-specified (e.g., what are the knowledge sources, how are they evaluated, etc).

This project aims to understand the behavioural and brain bases of creative thought by using a novel approach at the intersection between executive control operations and semantic cognition. In brief, executive functions such as response initiation and inhibition, strategy application and flexibility play a critical role in everyday life because they enable individuals to adapt to circumstances, exhibit self-control and to solve new problems as they arise. Semantic cognition refers to our ability to flexibly retrieve and manipulate our generalized knowledge, which is acquired over the lifespan, to support verbal and non-verbal (multimodal) behaviours. In this project both executive control and semantic cognition will be investigated using behavioural and neuroimaging techniques in individuals that are healthy and those with focal brain lesions due to neurological disorders. The focus of the PhD could be on any of these aspects of the project, depending on the candidate.

This project is a collaboration between Prof Gail Robinson (UQ) and Prof Matt Lambon Ralph (University of Cambridge), and the PhD candidate will have both on the advisory team.

Scholarship value

As a scholarship recipient, you'll receive: 

  • living stipend of $32,192 per annum tax free (2023 rate), indexed annually
  • tuition fees covered
  • single Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC)


Professor Gail Robinson

School of Psychology


Preferred educational background

Your application will be assessed on a competitive basis.

We take into account your

  • previous academic record
  • publication record
  • honours and awards
  • employment history.

A working knowledge of cognition, experimental psychology and statistical analysis and a keen interest in neuropsychology would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field(s) of psychology and the potential for scholastic success.

A background or knowledge of cognition and statistical analysis is highly desirable.

Latest commencement date

If you are the successful candidate, you must commence by Research Quarter 4, 2024. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date.

If you are an international applicant, you may need to apply much earlier for visa requirements.

How to apply

You apply for this project as part of your PhD program application.

View application process