Nathan Caruana

Senior Lecturer

College of Education, Psychology and Social Work

place Social Sciences North
GPO Box 2100, Adelaide 5001, South Australia

I am a cognitive neuroscientist focused on understanding the factors that shape positive social interactions involving neurotypical and neurodivergent individuals (e.g., autism, schizophrenia) as well as artificial agents (e.g., virtual avatars, robots). My broader goal is to improve the lives of all neurodiverse people by informing how we can optimise social communication in various contexts by fully understanding the perceptual (bottom-up) and psychological/cognitive (top-down) factors that shape social perception, attention and action.

A second stream of my research is exploring the potential application of social robots as an assistive technology in education settings. A particular focus of this research is to examine how the social capabilities of robots can promote positive experiences during children’s reading and language acquisition – particularly for those who experience social anxiety. Relating to this research stream, I am collaborating across several projects examining the relationship between literacy difficulties and emotional health outcomes in children and adults.


B. Psych. (Hons 1)

PhD (Human Cognition and Brain Sciences)

Honours, awards and grants


  • Best ECR Platform Presentation, Australasian Society for Social and Affective Neuroscience (2023)
  • Paul Bourke Award, Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia (2021)
  • Cognitive Science Research and Teaching Service Award, MQ (2018)
  • Staff Awards: Excellence in Higher Degree Research Award, MQ (2017)
  • Excellence in Higher Degree Research Award, MQ (2017)
  • David Hall Prize (Best Thesis), Faculty of Human Sciences, MQ (2016)
  • Vice Chancellor’s Commendation for Academic Excellence, MQ (2016)
  • ARC CCD Excellence in Research (2015)
  • ARC CCD Excellence in Research Student Award (2014)


  • Norman Munn Visiting Distinguished Visiting Fellowship (2023) - Balzan & Caruana. $8,000.
  • Experimental Psychology Society (2023) - Tidoni*, Caruana* & Cross. $15,821.
  • MQ Research Acceleration Scheme (2022) - McEwan, Nalepka, Caruana, Richardson, Kallen, & Curby. $49,959.86.
  • MQ Strategic Infrastructure Scheme (2022) - Ryan … Caruana & Nalepka. $134,013.
  • ARC CCD Legacy Scheme (2018-2019) - Caruana, Nalepka, Kaplan, Richardson & Pellicano. $24,072.83.
  • MQ Research Fellowship (2018-2023) - Caruana. $441,384.
  • MQ Strategic Infrastructure (2017) - Kruger … Caruana, Stephen, Mitchison. $132,887.
  • ARC CCD Neural Markers (2017) - Caruana, Woolgar, Seymour, McArthur. $17,478.
  • ARC CCD Cross Program Support (2017) - Sutherland … Caruana, Connaughton, Ewing & Williams. $39,287.
  • ARC CCD Neural Markers (2016) - Schubert, Kohnen, Castles, Nickels, Caruana, & de Lissa. $5,180.
  • ARC CCD Cross Program Support (2016) - Caruana, Langdon, Seymour, McArthur, Rhodes, Kloth, & Murphy. $39,947.
  • ARC CCD Cross Program Support (2016) - Seymour, Caruana, Rhodes, Clifford & Wardle. $39,790.
  • MQ Human Sciences Equipment Grant (2015) - Badcock, Caruana, de Lissa, Boisvert, Sharma, McMahon, Demuth, & McArthur. $2,902.
  • ARC CCD Cross Program Support (2015) - McArthur, Sowman, Bishop, Savage, Caruana, & Francis. $39,000.
  • MQ Postgraduate Research Fund (2014) - Caruana. $5,000.
  • MQ Faculty of Human Sciences Equipment Grant (2014) - McArthur, Sowman, Savage, Caruana, & Francis. $10,000.
Key responsibilities

Deputy Course Coordinator (Undergraduate Psychology: Outreach & Student Partnership)

Director, HAVIC Lab for Human, Artificial & Virtual Interactive Cognition

Teaching interests

I teach Cognitive Psychology - the science of understanding how our minds work. I showcase emerging research in my teaching to show how experimental psychology and cognitive neuroscience methods can inform how the brain makes sense of the world around us and to explore ways in which we can improve cognitive outcomes in various contexts.

Topic coordinator
PSYC3008 Applied Cognitive Psychology
Topic lecturer
PSYC2020 Cognition and Learning