Dr Carolyn Semmler

Carolyn Semmler
Senior Lecturer
School of Psychology
Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences

My research applies psychological theories to the law. I am interested in understanding how memory reports become distorted by post-decision feedback, how confidence and accuracy are related in recognition memory and in unfamiliar face matching. I have also worked on methods to improve juror comprehension of legal concepts, how to limit the impact of misleading drug promotion marketing and how to improve the use of forensic science evidence in legal settings.

Connect with me

Dr Carolyn Semmler

My research applies psychological theories to the law. I am interested in understanding how memory reports become distorted by post-decision feedback, how confidence and accuracy are related in recognition memory and in unfamiliar face matching. I have also worked on methods to improve juror comprehension of legal concepts, how to limit the impact of misleading drug promotion marketing and how to improve the use of forensic science evidence in legal settings.

I'm a Senior Lecturer with the School of Psychology at the University of Adelaide. My research applies psychological theory (cognitive and social) to the law. In particular I'm interested in the problem of how to obtain and use information reported by witnesses' to crime to make decisions about the likelihood that a given suspect is the offender. I'm also interested in using psychological principles to improve the accuracy and efficiency of decisions made by our courts. As far as intellectual pedigree goes, I'm the 'offspring' of the eyewitness research group headed up by Neil Brewer. I have also collaborated with leading international eyewitness researchers including Gary Wells and Rod Lindsay on projects related to the use of eyewitness identification evidence. More recently I have collaborated with Amy Bradfield Douglass on theoretical explanations of the post-identification feedback effect (funded by an ARC Discovery Project 2010-2012 and a National Science Foundation Grant (2010-2012)). I have an ARC funded project underway developing formal models of the eyewitness identification task (DP 160101048) in collaboration with recognition memory researchers John Dunn, Laura Mickes and John Wixted. This work will help to develop the identification procedures of the future.

Other work within the area of Psychology and Law has focused on juror comprehension of judge's instructions and methods for improving comprehension (see Semmler, Brewer & Harvey, 2002). The impact of mood and emotion (in particular anger and sadness) on juror decision making (see Semmler & Brewer, 2001) and application of social persuasion theory to the courtroom. I am also interested in the human operators use of automated face matching systems to identify individuals in security settings (see Heyer & Semmler, 2013). This work is being carried out in collaboration with Dr Rebecca Heyer and Dr Robin Nichols at the Defence Science and Technology Group (funded by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet 2010-2012).

Outside of the psychology-law area I have been developing interests in the application of psychological theory to the medical decision making, in particular to better understand and improve doctors' treatment decisions. We have investigated methods for inducing 'healthy skepticism' in health consumers & improvement vaccination decision making among parents. This work was carried out by Dr Brennan Ong as part of his PhD dissertation and work on vaccination was carried out in collaboration with Dr Alexis Wheeler. I have provided education regarding the impact of anger and other emotions on medical decision making.

I have ongoing work on the psychology of meat consumption and the meat-animal connection being conducted with Prof. Anna Chur-Hansen and Dr Rachel Ankeny & Dr Heather Bray (Food Values Research Group). I have also co-authored work applying principles of cognitive psychology to hearing and the perception of sound in legal disputes (see Alias, Best, Niall, Semmler & Woolford, 2010) and provide workshops to legal practitioners and expert witnesses on the impact of cognitive bias in the assessment of evidence for legal matters.

I was the recipient of the Australian Psychological Society College of Forensic Psychologists "Macconochie Prize". I am a member of the Society for Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, I review papers for the journals Law and Human BehaviorJournal of Experimental Psychology: AppliedApplied Cognitive Psychology and Psychology, Crime and Law.

Appointments

Date Position Institution name
2007 Senior Lecturer University of Adelaide
2004 - 2008 Adjunct Lecturer Flinders University

Awards and Achievements

Date Type Title Institution Name Amount
2004 Award Maconochie Prize Australian Psycholgical Society

Education

Date Institution name Country Title
2000 - 2004 Flinders University Australia PhD
1996 - 1999 Flinders University Australia B. Psyc. (Hons)

Research Interests

Neuroscience, Behaviour and Brain Health

Journals

Year Citation
2017 Stephens, R., Semmler, C. & Sauer, J. (2017). The effect of the proportion of mismatching trials and task orientation on the confidence-accuracy relationship in unfamiliar face matching. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 23, 3, 336-353.
10.1037/xap0000130
2017 Semmler, C. & Hurst, J. (2017). The impact of state and trait anger on processing of evidential inconsistencies. Psychiatry, Psychology and Law, 24, 4, 594-604.
10.1080/13218719.2016.1258686
2015 Semmler, C. A. (2015). The psychology of unconscious bias. Bulletin of the Law Society of South Australia, 37, 7, 14-15.
2013 Douglass, A., Brewer, N., Semmler, C., Bustamante, L. & Hiley, A. (2013). The dynamic interaction between eyewitnesses and interviewers: The impact of differences in perspective on memory reports and interviewer behavior. Law and Human Behavior, 37, 4, 290-301.
10.1037/lhb0000034
2013 Heyer, R. & Semmler, C. (2013). Forensic confirmation bias: the case of facial image comparison. Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, 2, 1, 68-70.
10.1016/j.jarmac.2013.01.008
2010 Douglass, A., Brewer, N. & Semmler, C. (2010). Moderators of post-identification feedback effects on eyewitnesses' memory reports. Legal and Criminological Psychology, 15, 2, 279-292.
10.1348/135532509X446337
2008 Lindsay, R., Semmler, C., Weber, N., Brewer, N. & Lindsay, M. (2008). How variations in distance affect eyewitness reports and identification accuracy. Law and Human Behavior, 32, 6, 526-535.
10.1007/s10979-008-9128-x
2006 Semmler, C. & Brewer, N. (2006). Postidentification feedback effects on face recognition confidence: evidence for metacognitive influences. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 20, 7, 895-916.
10.1002/acp.1238
2004 Weber, N., Brewer, N., Wells, G., Semmler, C. & Keast, A. (2004). Eyewitness Identification Accuracy and Response Latency: The Unruly 10-12-Second Rule. Journal of Experimental Psychology-Applied, 10, 3, 139-147.
10.1037/1076-898X.10.3.139
2004 Semmler, C., Brewer, N. & Wells, G. (2004). Effects of Postidentification Feedback on Eyewitness Identification and Nonidentification Confidence. Journal of Applied Psychology, 89, 2, 334-346.
10.1037/0021-9010.89.2.334
2004 Brewer, N., Harvey, S. & Semmler, C. (2004). Improving comprehension of jury instructions with audio-visual presentation. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 18, 6, 765-776.
10.1002/acp.1036
2002 Semmler, C. & Brewer, N. (2002). Using a flow-chart to improve comprehension of jury instructions. Psychiatry, Psychology and Law, 9, 2, 262-270.
10.1375/pplt.2002.9.2.262
2002 Semmler, C. & Brewer, N. (2002). Effects of mood and emotion on juror processing and judgments. Behavioral Sciences & the Law, 20, 4, 423-436.
10.1002/bsl.502

Book Chapters

Year Citation
2012 Semmler, C., Brewer, N. & Douglass, A. (2012). Jurors believe eyewitnesses. In Conviction of the innocent: lessons learned from psychological science, 2012 APA Press.
2010 Alais, D., Best, V., Niall, P., Semmler, C. & Woolford, D. (2010). Hearing and the perception of sound. In Expert evidence, 2010 (pp. 1-11058). Thompson Reuters.
2007 Brewer, N., Weber, N. & Semmler, C. (2007). A Role for Theory in Eyewitness Identification Research. In R. C. L. Lindsay, D. F. Ross, J. D. Read & M. P. Toglia (Eds.), Handbook of eyewitness psychology Volume 2 - Memory for people (pp. 201-218). New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates inc..
2005 Brewer, N., Weber, N. & Semmler, C. (2005). Eyewitness identification. In N. Brewer & K. D. Williams (Eds.), Psychology and law: Contributions from psychological science (pp. 177-221). New York: The Guilford Press.
2005 Brewer, N., Williams, K. & Semmler, C. (2005). Psychology and law research: an overview. In Psychology and Law: An Empirical Perspective (pp. 1-10). New York: The Guilford Press.

Conference Papers

Year Citation
2017 Kaesler, M. P., Semmler, C. & Dunn, J. (2017). Using Measurement Models to Understand Eyewitness Identification. 39th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society. G. Gunzelman, A. Howes, T. Tenbrik & E. Davelaar (Eds.) London, UK.
2016 Matthew Kaesler, P., Matthew Welsh, B. & Semmler, C. (2016). Predicting overprecision in range estimation. The 38th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (COGSCI). A. Papafragou, D. Grodner, D. Mirman & J. Trueswell (Eds.) Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
2010 Semmler, C., Nahum, T. & Clark, Y. (2010). An examination of hope, self-esteem and positive and negative experiences among first year psychology students. ERGA Conference. Adelaide, Australia.

Conference Items

Year Citation
2017 Heyer, R. L., Lee, H., Calleja, J., Vu, L., Semmler, C., Hanton, K. & MacLeod, V. (2017). Challenging imagery: contrasting human facial image comparison and facial recognition algorithm performance. International Conference of the Society for Applied Research in Memory and Cognition. Sydney.
2017 Michalski, D., McLindin, B., Semmler, C. & Heyer, R. L. (2017). The impact of ageing on facial comparisons with images of children conducted by humans and automated systems. International Conference of the Society for Applied Research in Memory and Cognition.
2017 Semmler, C. A., Hendrickson, A., Ma-Wyatt, A. & Heyer, R. (2017). Using response time models to understand unfamiliar face matching expertise. Australian Mathematical Psychology Conference. Brisbane Queensland.
2017 Semmler, C., Heyer, R. L., Hendrickson, D. & Ma-Wyatt, A. (2017). Modelling expertise in unfamiliar face matching. Unfamiliar Facial Identification Group Conference. Sydney.
2016 Heyer, R. L., Lee, H., Vu, L. & Semmler, C. (2016). Facial image comparison: the impact of plastic surgery on performance. International Symposium on the Forensic Sciences (ANZFSS’16). Auckland, New Zealand.
2016 Michalski, D., Heyer, R. & Semmler, C. A. (2016). Facial comparisons with images of children: Human and algorithm performance. Biometrics 2016. London, United Kingdom.
2016 Michalski, D., McLindin, B., Semmler, C. & Heyer, R. L. (2016). The impact of extending the validity of children’s passports from 5 to 10 years. Florey International Postgraduate Research Conference. Adelaide.
2016 Heyer, R. L., Calleja, J. & Semmler, C. (2016). Facial image comparison: the impact of image quality and image restoration techniques on performance. International Symposium on the Forensic Sciences (ANZFSS’16). Auckland, New Zealand.
2016 Michalski, D., McLindin, B., Semmler, C. & Heyer, R. L. (2016). Facial image comparisons of children: How does the age of children in images affect human and algorithm performance?. International Symposium on the Forensic Sciences (ANZFSS’16). Auckland, New Zealand.
2015 Michalski, D., McLindin, B., Semmler, C. & Heyer, R. L. (2015). Is facial image comparison as effective for verifying children as it is adults in security applications?. Florey International Postgraduate Research Conference. Adelaide.
2014 Michalski, D., McLindin, B., Heyer, R. L. & Semmler, C. (2014). Understanding how Age Affects Facial Matching Performance of Humans and Facial Recognition Systems: Requirements Collection from Whole of Government and Industry. Defence Human Sciences Symposium,. Adelaide.
2014 Ong, B., Semmler, C. & Mansfield, P. (2014). Cultivating healthy skepticism towards help-seeking advertisements: Dispelling the illusion of unique invulnerability. Annual Meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology. Austin, Texas.
2014 Michalski, D. J., McLindin, B., Heyer, R. & Semmler, C. (2014). Whole of government and industry requirements collection: Understanding how the ageing variable affects facial comparison performance of humans and automated algorithms.. Florey International Postgraduate Conference.
2014 Forndran, A., Semmler, C. & Heyer, R. L. (2014). Reading between the lines? The role of forensic evidence reporting on juror understanding and decision making. International Symposium on the Forensic Sciences (ANZFSS’14). Adelaide.
2014 Michalski, D., McLindin, B., Semmler, C. & Heyer, R. L. (2014). Empirically Examining the Impact of Age Related Variables on Facial Recognition Algorithms and Human Operators: A Methodological Primer. 15th Biometrics Institute Asia Pacific Conference. Sydney.
2014 Michalski, D., McLindin, B., Semmler, C. & Heyer, R. L. (2014). Examining the Performance of Human Operators and Automated Facial Recognition Systems for the Identification of Missing and Exploited Children. International Symposium on the Forensic Sciences (ANZFSS’14). Adelaide.
2013 Heyer, R. L., Semmler, C. & McLindin, B. (2013). Do facial recognition system decision aids improve one-to-many face matching performance?. 14th Biometrics Institute Asia Pacific Conference. Sydney.
2013 Ong, B., Semmler, C. & Mansfield, P. (2013). Dispelling the illusion of unique invulnerability: Cultivating healthy scepticism towards disease awareness advertisements. Australasian Experimental Psychology Conference. Adelaide, S.A..
2013 Semmler, C., Heyer, R. L., Ma-Wyatt, A. & MacLeod, V. (2013). Understanding expertise in unfamiliar face matching. Australasian Experimental Psychology Conference. Adelaide.
2012 Heyer, R. L., Semmler, C. & McLindin, B. (2012). Decision Aids: Helpful or a Hindrance for Users of One-to-Many Face Facial Recognition System?. Defence Human Sciences Symposium. Melbourne.
2012 Semmler, C., Heyer, R. L., Ma-Wyatt, A. & MacLeod, V. (2012). Impact of Individual Differences and Eye Movements on Facial Comparison Performance. International Symposium on the Forensic Sciences (ANZFSS’12). Hobart.
2012 Heyer, R. L., Semmler, C. & McLindin, B. (2012). One-to-Many Face Matching Using an Automated Facial Recognition System: The Impact of Decisions Aids on Performance. International Symposium on the Forensic Sciences (ANZFSS’12). Hobart.
2012 Woolford, D., Alais, D., Best, V., Semmler, C. A. & Niall, P. D. (2012). Hearing, the Perception of Sound and Expert Evidence in Litigation. Acoustics, Development and the Environment. Fremantle, Perth, WA.
2011 Heyer, R. L., Semmler, C., MacLeod, V., Calic, D., Ma-Wyatt, A., McLindin, B. & Hopley, L. (2011). Towards an Understanding of Facial Identification Practitioners in Australia: the Human Operator Capability Project. 12th Biometrics Institute Asia Pacific Conference. Sydney.
2011 Heyer, R. L., Semmler, C. & McLindin, B. (2011). One-to-many face matching: the impact of candidate list size and individual differences on performance. International Conference of the Society for Applied Research in Memory and Cognition. New York.
2010 Heyer, R. L., Semmler, C. & McLindin, B. (2010). Identification using an automated facial recognition system: towards an understanding of human operator decision making. International Symposium on the Forensic Sciences (ANZFSS’10). Sydney.
2009 Semmler, C. & Ashenden, A. (2009). Testing a cognitive consistency account of the postidentification feedback effect. Biennial Conference of the Society of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition. Kyoto, Japan.

Report for External Bodies

Year Citation
2012 Ma-Wyatt, A., Semmler, C., Heyer, R. & Macleod, V., (2012). Improving human operator performance for face biometric identification: Final report,

Semmler, C. Human Aspects of Video Analytics Under ARCHIi. 2017. $101,000. DST Group.

Semmler, C., Hendrickson, A. Heyer, R., van den Hengel, A., & Dick, A. Understanding Human-Technology Interactions to Aid in the Use of Unconstrained Imagery for Identification and Surveillance. 2016 - 2017. $19,500. Interdisciplinary Research Fund, University of Adelaide.

Semmler, C. (Chief Investigator), Dunn, J., Mickes, L., & Wixted,J. A formal signal detection model of eyewitness identification. 2016 - 2018. $176,000. Australian Research Council Discovery Projects.

Semmler, C. & MaWyatt, A. Improving human operator capability for face biometric identification and recognition. 2010-2011, $70,000. Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet Research Support for National Security.

Semmler, C. (Chief Investigator) Brewer, N., & Douglass, A.B. The distortion of eyewitness identification testimony. 2010-2012, $230,000, Australian Research Council Discovery Projects.

Douglass, A.B., Brewer, N., & Semmler, C.(Partner Investigator) The dynamic interaction between investigator and eyewitness: Effects of memory reports and interviewer behavior. 2009-2011, $200,000. National Science Foundation (USA).

Brewer, N., Young, R.L., Weber, N., Ma-Wyatt, A., Semmler, C., (Partner Investigator) & McKinnon, R. A multi-function eyetracker facility. 2008, $120,000. Australian Research Council – Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities Grant.

Semmler, C. (Chief Investigator) The effects of postidentification feedback on eyewitness confidence.2007, $15,000. Faculty of Health Sciences Research Grant.

Semmler, C. (PI) Improving witness memory for faces through rehearsal strategy. 2005, $11,500, Flinders Research Grants Scheme.

Co-Facilitator (2015-2016: Small Group Discovery Experience Community of Practice

Teaching Responsibilities:

Program Coordinator: Psychology Honours (Teaching into; Psychol 4201/4301: Research Methods and Statistics/ Psychol 4202/4302: Current Issues in Psychology/ Psychol 4200A/B/4300A/B: Research Seminar/ PSYCHOL 4209/4309: Mind, Brain & Behaviour)

Psychol 1004: Research Methods in Psychology (Statistics and Ethics)

Psychol 2006: Foundations of Perception and Cognition (Decision Making)

Psychol 3023: Perception and Cognition (Metacognition)

Current PhD Candidates:

Charlotte Scobie: Individual Differences in Epistimological Orientation and Juror Evaluation of Forensic Science

Alexandre Forndran: Juror Decision Making in the Presence of Forensic Bias

Dana Michalski:  The Effects of Age and Age-Image Gap on Human and Machine Face Matching Performance

Matthew Kaesler: Costs and Benefits in Eyewitness Identification Procedures

Recently Completed PhDs

Dr Elizabeth Fontaine (2016): Narrative Recall in an Investigative Interview: Insight into Witness Metacognition

Dr Adella Bhaskara (2015): Differential Effects of Confirming Post-Identification Feedback on Eyewitness Testimony Relevant Judgments (Dean's Commendation for Doctoral Thesis Excellence)

Dr Rebecca Heyer (2014): Understanding One-to-Many Unfamiliar Face Matching in the Operational Context (Dean's Commendation for Doctoral Thesis Excellence, Frank Dalziel Prize)

Dr Brennan Ong (2014): Dispelling the Illusion of Unique Invulnerability to Pharmaceutical Company Marketing: An Educational Intervention (Dean's Commendation for Doctoral Thesis Excellence)

Memberships

Date Role Membership Country
2016 - ongoing Member Cognitive Science Society United States
2001 - ongoing Member Society for Applied Research in Memory and Cognition United States

Consulting/Advisories

Date Institution Department Organisation Type Country
2015 - 2015 Government of South Australia South Australian Employment Tribunal Continuing Education Instructional and training Australia
2008 - 2008 Department of Education and Training SACE Instructional and training Australia
Position
Senior Lecturer
Phone
83134628
Fax
8313 3770
Campus
North Terrace
Building
Hughes Building
Room Number
5 07
Org Unit
Psychology

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