Our People research program positions the Life Course Centre, and Australia, at the forefront of an emerging field of study – the cognitive science of disadvantage. This work represents a major innovation in the Centre’s research that investigates the two-way relationship between deep and persistent disadvantage and individual cognition, decision-making and choices.

Policy solutions that account for psychological and physiological functioning are best placed to make a difference for disadvantaged people. Through our People program, Life Course Centre researchers are investigating the cognitive processes of individuals to determine how they apply their human capabilities, and how their decision-making processes can be leveraged to reduce and prevent disadvantage. Contemporary neuroscience has identified that patterns of disadvantage affect neurocognitive pathways, producing distinct characteristics in the behaviours, reactions, and responses of people experiencing disadvantage that differ from others. We are leveraging this emerging knowledge to specifically explore the decision-making of people in disadvantaged circumstances.

This research has its origins in the social sciences of neuroeconomics, behavioural economics, social cognition, neurocriminology and systems theory. By triangulating social science methods like social surveys with the insights, self-measurements and experimental techniques of psychology and neuroscience, we are driving a new cognitive science approach to overcoming disadvantage and promoting personal agency.

Key research themes within our People program include:
  • Cognitive Science of Disadvantage: predicting how the duress of disadvantage affects individual decisions and drives predictable biases.
  • Financial Choices through the Life Course: defining financial attitudes and behaviours that are associated with entering and exiting disadvantage.
  • Social Determinants of Sleep: interpreting sleep and circadian function as an index of social disadvantage and a driver of inequality in cognitive processing.