Science, mathematics, social science and technology award for exceptional contribution in New Zealand, awarded annually.
Professor Corballis has made significant contributions in the areas of evolution, linguistics and neuropsychology related to understanding the human mind, applying mathematics, physics, philosophy, genetics, neuroscience and evolutionary.
Professor Corballis is well known for his work on asymmetries in the brain, identifying the differences in function between the two cerebral hemispheres. His research into this has included behavioural studies, brain imaging and genetics studies to determine how the hemispheres specialise for complex computation as required for language and as demonstrated by the phenomena of being right- or left-handed. Recent studies in identical twins, who don’t always have the same handedness, has led to new understanding about what role genes play in producing brain asymmetry.
He has championed the theory that human capacity for complex verbal language emerged from gestural communication in early hominins, gathering many supporters over time.
Another area where Professor Corballis’s research is well known is in understanding the evolution of the human mind’s capacity for ‘mental time travel’, a term coined by him and his then student Thomas Suddendorf, describing the human ability to think about both past and future events.
These two strands of research have been increasingly drawn together as he has suggested that language and the ability to conceive events in time may have mutually driven evolution of the human mind.