Carolyn Semmler

Dr Carolyn Semmler

Senior Lecturer

School of Psychology

Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences

Eligible to supervise Masters and PhD - email supervisor to discuss availability.


I lead the Applied Cognition and Experimental Psychology (ACEP) research group, focusing on the application of theories and models of cognition, judgement and decision-making to legal and medical contexts. We are interested in understanding human interaction with intelligent agents and the development of human-machine interfaces for defence and national security.

I use experimental methods and modelling of cognitive processes to understand and improve human decision-making in important contexts, such as health, policing and national security. My research is focused on understanding how individuals who are proficient in unfamiliar face matching achieve high levels of performance and how technology might be used to enhance proficiency. ACEP is working to improve the decisions of people in areas of law, including police, eyewitnesses and jurors. In doing so, we hope to improve the use of forensic science evidence in legal settings and the accuracy and efficiency of decisions made by our courts. We are also active in areas of health, where our focus is on methods to improve the decisions of health consumers.

I lead the Applied Cognition and Experimental Psychology (ACEP) group in the School of Psychology at the University of Adelaide. We focus on application of theories and models of cognition, judgement and decision-making to legal and medical contexts. We are interested in understanding human interaction with intelligent agents using computational cognitive modelling and electrophysiological recordings to inform our investigations.

Past research projects addressed 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. Our work has used psychological principles to improve the accuracy and efficiency of decisions made by our courts.

I have an ARC Discovery 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. In the past I have worked with Neil Brewer, Gary Wells, Rod Lindsay and Amy Bradfield-Douglass on various research questions relevant to identification of people.

I am interested in the human operators' use of automated face matching systems to identify individuals in security settings (see Heyer & Semmler, 2013; Stephens, Semmler & Sauer, 2017). This work is being carried out in collaboration with Dr Rebecca Heyer at the Defence Science and Technology Group - research lead in the Biometrics Group (funded by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet 2010-2012).

Other work 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; Semmler & Hurst, 2016) and application of social persuasion theory to the courtroom.

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 and healthcare workers. This work was carried out by Dr Brennan Ong as part of his PhD dissertation and vaccination decision making research 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 research into 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) (see Dowsett, Semmler, Chur-Hansen, Bray & Ankeny, 2018). 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,  and the Cognitive Science Society. I am also the vice President of the Psychology Foundation of Australia.

Semmler, C., Pincombe, B., Darvishi, S., Gordon, N., Banks, S., Takarangi, M., Nixon, R., Booth, D., Heyer, R., Yie, S., Yau, D. 2019. Human-Machine interfaces for detecting, monitoring and managing psychological stress. $150,000. Defence Innovation Partnerships, South Australian Government.

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 - 2019. $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. 2010-2017, $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:

Course Coordinator: Foundations of Perception and Cognition; Big Picture Psychology: Global Challenges, Psychological Perspectives; Human Behaviour & Criminal Justice: Applying Psychology.

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

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

Psychol 2008: Big Picture Psychology: Global Challenges, Psychological Perspectives (Climate Change and Cognition)

Psychol 3023: Perception and Cognition (Metacognition)

Psychol 4201/4301: Research Methods and Statistics (Bootstrapping and Resampling Methods)

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  • Current Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)

    Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name
    2018 Principal Supervisor Evaluation of Eyewitness Identification Tasks and Decision Rules: A Signal Detection Theory Analysis Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mrs Kym Michelle McCormick
    2018 Co-Supervisor An Investigation of Individual, Organisational and Cultural Factors that Facilitate and Impede Women's Career Progression in Corporate Australia Doctor of Philosophy with Master of Psychology (Organisational and Human Factors) Doctorate Full Time Mrs Anna Campbell Gardiner
    2018 Principal Supervisor Cognitive Psychology and Epistemological Crisis Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Part Time Dr Joseph Smith
    2017 Principal Supervisor How Inference Concerning the Nature and Intent of Socially Generated info Guides Inductive Reasoning Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Part Time Mr Keith James Ransom
    2016 Principal Supervisor Costs and Benefits in Eyewitness Identification Procedure Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Matthew Philip Kaesler
    2014 Co-Supervisor Does it matter why we forgive? An investigation of the outcomes associated with different motivation for forgiving in a workplace setting Doctor of Philosophy with Master of Psychology (Organisational and Human Factors) Doctorate Full Time Jordan Brian Gabriels
  • Past Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)

    Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name
    2017 - 2017 Principal Supervisor Using Comparison Judgements to Study Representations Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Steven William Langsford
    2013 - 2018 Principal Supervisor Forensic Science and Juror Decision Making: Can Jurors Be Taught to Recognise Bias? Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Alexandre Benjamin Forndran
    2013 - 2017 Principal Supervisor The Impact of Age-Related Variables on Facial Comparisons with Images of Children: Algorithm and Practitioner Performance Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Dr Dana Jaclyn Michalski
    2013 - 2018 Principal Supervisor Considering Forensic Science: Juror Decision Making and Unvalidated Identification Evidence Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Charlotte Rachel Scobie
    2011 - 2015 Principal Supervisor A Psychological Approach to Understanding and Resisting the Influence of Advertising from the Pharmaceutical Industry Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Dr Brennan Zehao Ong
    2011 - 2017 Principal Supervisor Narrative Recall in an Investigative Interview: Insight into Witness Metacognition Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Part Time Ms Elizabeth Leonora Fontaine
    2010 - 2015 Principal Supervisor Differential Effects of Confirming Post-Identification Feedback on Eyewitness Testimony-Relevant Judgments Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Ms Adella Bhaskara
    2008 - 2010 Co-Supervisor Decision Making in Civil Disputes: The Effect of Role and Frame Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Victoria Gilliland
    2008 - 2013 Principal Supervisor Understanding One-to-Many Unfamiliar Face Matching in the Operational Context: The Impact of Candidate List Size, Expertise, and Decision Aids on the Performance of Facial Recognition System Users Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Dr Rebecca Louise Heyer
    2007 - 2009 Co-Supervisor Item Noise versus Context Noise: Using the List Length Effect to Investigate the Source of Interference in Recognition Memory Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Dr Angela Kinnell
    2007 - 2011 Co-Supervisor The Development of an Implicit Association Test for Measuring Forgiveness Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Jeremy Goldring
  • Position: Senior Lecturer
  • Phone: 83134628
  • Email: carolyn.semmler@adelaide.edu.au
  • Fax: 8313 3770
  • Campus: North Terrace
  • Building: Hughes, floor 7
  • Room: 711
  • Org Unit: Psychology

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