Dr David Butler

BA (Psychology and Religion), BPsych(Hons), PhD (Cognitive Neuroscience)

  • Unit Coordinator
  • Senior Lecturer
  • International Student Academic Support Officer
  • Decolonisation Working Group Chair

Research Expertise

“I am generally interested in how and why we (i) are able to know about our own ‘selves’, and (ii) interact with others in positive and/or negative ways with others (i.e., prejudice). I address questions within these interests using a combined developmental, comparative (animals), and evolutionary framework. Below are just some of the current projects of interest if students wish to contact me.

Self-recognition in Psychopathology

Visual self-recognition (i.e., knowing what one’s own self looks like) is subject to various distortions as seen in several types of psychopathology. For example, people with Anorexia Nervosa tend to see their own appearance to be larger than it is in reality, whilst people with Body Dysmorphic Disorder tend to perceive faults in their own appearance that others may not detect. I want to further our understanding about how self-perception occurs in such psychopathologies. Moreover, in collaboration with staff from the University of Melbourne (Dr. Isabel Krug) we are pursuing whether distortions in self-perception can be positively altered via a process known as ‘multisensory stimulation’ to reduce any negative impact that may occur (e.g., people with Anorexia may see themselves realistically rather than being ‘large’).

The Evolution of Empathy

There is much to be gained about our knowledge of the human mind via comparisons to other species. What human abilities are truly unique? What abilities are shared with other species? Why are some abilities unique and others not? In collaboration with staff from LaTrobe University’s Dog Hub (Dr. Tiffani Howell), we are investigating a contentious issue amongst comparative/evolutionary psychologists: do dogs show empirical evidence for empathy? We hope answering such a question will lead to a better understanding of empathy in humans and dogs alike (and indeed, perhaps how dogs and humans interact). Given the increasing use of dogs in therapy, such knowledge may ultimately have clinical implications.

Using Dogs in Therapy with Abused Children

In a collaboration between myself, staff at LaTrobe University, and Bravehearts, we have been exploring how the use of dogs (and robotic dogs) may assist in the treatment of abused children. This is a crucial issue given the trauma inflicted on children and the high drop out rates that may be seen despite the effectiveness of current treatments.”

Research Supervision

  • Doctor of Psychology (Clinical Psychology)
  • PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)


  • Foundations in Psychology
  • Behavioural Psychology
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive and Behavioural Neuroscience

Clinical Expertise

David is not a practicing clinician but has several years of experience working in clinical environments and settings.


David has a healthy obsession with understanding how and why complex psychological abilities involving the ‘self’ develop and evolve.