Rachel Searston

Dr Rachel Searston

Lecturer

School of Psychology

Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences

Eligible to supervise Masters and PhD (as Co-Supervisor) - email supervisor to discuss availability.


Rachel examines the nature of human learning and expertise. Her research spans a range of applied contexts, including forensic science, medical reasoning, and higher education. She collaborates with Australian policing and forensic agencies exploring ways to optimise fingerprint examination decisions. Together with collaborators at the University of Melbourne, she also holds a Networked Society Institute Seed Funding grant on the detection of misinformation or 'fake news' online. She was a University of Melbourne McKenzie Fellow and a Research Fellow in the School of Psychology at The University of Queensland, where she completed her PhD in Cognitive Science.

Our capacity to exploit our similar past experiences as a guide to the world is one of our most fundamental cognitive functions. How do we generalise from prior experience when recognising a face, discriminating fingerprints, diagnosing disease from an MRI or CT scan, determining guilt or innocence in a criminal case, evaluating the truth of a news headline, or detecting the early stages of a grapevine virus? How do we transfer our abstract knowledge of basic concepts like deep time, entropy, relativity, relativism, or regression to the mean to situations and problems outside of the classroom? What kinds of mental representations help us to generalise? How do they emerge? How can we build them most effectively through experience and training? And how do we augment them with emerging technology and intelligent systems? We investigate such questions of human cognition as they apply to practical problems in industry and education. 

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  • Journals

    Year Citation
    2018 Searston, R. A., Thompson, M. B., Vokey, J. R., French, L., & Tangen, J. M. (2018). How low can you go? Detecting style in extremely low resolution images. https://psyarxiv.com/zx2gs.
    DOI
    2018 *Palada, H., *Searston, R. A., Persson, A., **Ballard, T., & **Thompson, M. B. (2018). An evidence accumulation model of perceptual discrimination with naturalistic stimuli. PsyArXiv.
    DOI
    2018 Towler, A., White, D., Ballantyne, K., Searston, R., Martire, K., & Kemp, R. (2018). Are Forensic Scientists Experts?. Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, 7(2), 199-208.
    DOI Scopus2 WoS2
    2018 Vokey, J., Jamieson, R., Tangen, J., Searston, R., & Allen, S. (2018). A visual familiarity account of evidence for orthographic processing in pigeons (Columbia livia): a reply to Scarf, Corballis, Güntürkün, and Colombo (2017). Animal Cognition, 21(3), 425-431.
    DOI
    2017 Searston, R., & Tangen, J. (2017). The emergence of perceptual expertise with fingerprints over time. Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, 6(4), 442-451.
    DOI Scopus1 WoS1
    2017 Searston, R., & Tangen, J. (2017). Expertise with unfamiliar objects is flexible to changes in task but not changes in class. PLoS ONE, 12(6), e0178403-1-e0178403-14.
    DOI Scopus4 WoS1 Europe PMC1
    2017 Searston, R., & Tangen, J. (2017). Training perceptual experts: Feedback, labels, and contrasts. Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology, 71(1), 32-39.
    DOI
    2017 Edmond, G., Towler, A., Growns, B., Ribeiro, G., Found, B., White, D., . . . Martire, K. (2017). Thinking forensics: Cognitive science for forensic practitioners. Science and Justice, 57(2), 144-154.
    DOI Scopus8 WoS7 Europe PMC2
    2017 Searston, R., & Tangen, J. (2017). The style of a stranger: identification expertise generalizes to coarser level categories. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 24(4), 1324-1329.
    DOI Scopus3 WoS2
    2016 Searston, R., Tangen, J., & Eva, K. (2016). Putting bias into context: The role of familiarity in identification. Law and Human Behavior, 40(1), 50-64.
    DOI Scopus6 WoS6 Europe PMC3
    2016 Edmond, G., Found, B., Martire, K., Ballantyne, K., Hamer, D., Searston, R., . . . Roberts, A. (2016). Model forensic science. Australian Journal of Forensic Sciences, 48(5), 496-537.
    DOI Scopus9 WoS7
    2015 Edmond, G., Tangen, J., Searston, R., & Dror, I. (2015). Contextual bias and cross-contamination in the forensic sciences: the corrosive implications for investigations, plea bargains, trials and appeals. Law, Probability and Risk, 14(1), 1-25.
    DOI Scopus11 WoS12
    2014 Edmond, G., Matire, K., Kemp, R., Hamer, D., Hibbert, B., Ligertwood, A., . . . White, D. (2014). How to cross-examine forensic scientists: A guide for lawyers. Australian Bar Review, 39, 174-197.
    2014 Thompson, M. B., Tangen, J. M., & Searston, R. A. (2014). Understanding expertise and non-analytic cognition in fingerprint discriminations made by humans. FRONTIERS IN PSYCHOLOGY, 5, 3 pages.
    DOI WoS2 Europe PMC1
  • Conference Papers

    Year Citation
    2018 Lodge, J. M., Alhadad, S., & Searston, R. A. (2018). Open science in applied and use-inspired basic research. In UQ Open Science Conference 2018. Brisbane, Australia.
    2018 Thompson, M. B., Searston, R. A., Ribeiro, G., & Tangen, J. M. (2018). Alternative statistical frameworks for communicating the strength of forensic evidence in court. In Australasian Mathematical Psychology Conference. Perth.
    2018 Alhadad, S., Searston, R. A., & Lodge, J. M. (2018). Interdisciplinary Open Science: What are the implications for educational technology research?. In Open Oceans: Learning without borders. Proceedings ASCILITE2018: 35th International Conference on Innovation, Practice and Research in the Use of Educational Technologies in Tertiary Education.. Geelong.
    2018 Thompson, M. B., Tangen, J. M., Searston, R. A., Edmond, G., Eva, K. W., Osborn, S., . . . Raymond, J. (2018). Creating the next generation of perceptual experts in Australia’s Policing and Security Agencies. In Australian & New Zealand Forensic Science Society (ANZFSS) 24th International Symposium. Perth.
    2017 Lodge, J. M., Searston, R. A., & Tangen, J. M. (2017). What is psychological science contributing to higher education?. In Australian Psychology Learning and Teaching Conference. Ipswich, Australia.
    2017 Tangen, J. M., Corbett, B., Matthews, B., Searston, R., & Thompson, M. B. (2017). Progressive challenge in the discrimination of visual categories. In Psychonomic Society 58th Annual Meeting. Vancouver, British Columbia.
    2017 Searston, R. A., Tangen, J. M., & Thompson, M. B. (2017). Collapsing across categories, contexts, and cognitive tasks as an alternative to replication. In 44th Experimental Psychology Conference. Newcastle, Australia.
    2017 Tangen, J. M., Searston, R. A., & Thompson, M. B. (2017). Turning novices into experts with style. In 12th Biennial Meeting of the Society for Applied Research in Memory and Cognition. Sydney, Australia.
    2016 Searston, R. A., & Tangen, J. M. (2016). Perceptual expertise is flexible to changes in task but not changes in class. In 43rd Experimental Psychology Conference. Melbourne, Australia.
    2015 Searston, R. A., & Tangen, J. M. (2015). Should forensic experts justify their decisions in court?. In 5th International Conference on Evidence Law and Forensic Science. Adelaide, Australia.
    2015 Searston, R. A., & Tangen, J. M. (2015). Turning novice identifiers into experts. In 11th Biennial Meeting of the Society for Applied Research in Memory and Cognition. Victoria, BC, Canada.
    2015 Searston, R. A., & Tangen, J. M. (2015). Identification expertise and family resemblance categorisation. In Talk presented at the 42nd Experimental Psychology Conference. Sydney, Australia.
    2015 Searston, R. A., & Tangen, J. M. (2015). Training visual expertise. In 3rd Annual Unfamiliar Face Matching Research Meeting. Sydney, Australia.
    2014 Tangen, J. M., Searston, R. A., & Thompson, M. B. (2014). Visual expertise and identification. In Psychonomic Society 55th Annual Meeting. Long Beach.
    2014 Searston, R. A., & Tangen, J. M. (2014). Mapping the development of identification expertise: A prospective longitudinal approach. In 41st Experimental Psychology Conference. Brisbane, Australia.
    2014 Edmond, G., Found, B., Kemp, R. I., Martire, K., Searston, R. A., Tangen, J. M., . . . White, D. (2014). Psychological factors in the interpretation, delivery and assessment of forensic science evidence. In 22nd International Symposium on the Forensic Sciences of the Australian and New Zealand Forensic Science Society. Adelaide, Australia.
    2014 Searston, R. A., & Tangen, J. M. (2014). Developing expertise in the identification of fingerprints and faces. In 2nd Annual Unfamiliar Face Matching Research Meeting. Sydney, Australia.
    2013 Searston, R. A., & Tangen, J. M. (2013). Training and recruitment in forensic reasoning. In 2013 Fingerprint Experts’ Conference. HMAS Penguin, Sydney, Australia.
  • Conference Items

    Year Citation
    2018 Palada, H., Searston, R. A., Thompson, M. B., Persson, A., & Ballard, T. (2018). Evidence accumulation in a complex visual domain: Applying the linear ballistic accumulator to fingerprint discrimination.. Poster session presented at the meeting of Psychonomic Society 59th Annual Meeting. New Orleans, Louisiana, USA.
    2017 Searston, R. A., Zhen, L., & Tangen, J. M. (2017). Effect of practice testing on learning to discriminate natural categories. Poster session presented at the meeting of Psychonomic Society 58th Annual Meeting. Vancouver, British Columbia.
    2014 Searston, R. A., & Tangen, J. M. (2014). “Match” or “No Match”? Learning to Identify Unfamiliar People. Poster session presented at the meeting of Psychonomic Society 55th Annual Meeting. Long Beach, California.
    2013 Searston, R. A., & Tangen, J. M. (2013). Cognitive bias in fingerprint identification: The subtle effects of familiarity. Poster session presented at the meeting of 40th Experimental Psychology Conference. Adelaide, Australia.
  • Report for External Bodies

    Year Citation
    2018 Kent, K. M., Tangen, J. M., & Searston, R. A. (2018). Wisdom of the Expert Crowd: Aggregating Fingerprint experts’ blind judgments for improved accuracy.
    2016 Searston, R. A., Tangen, J. M., & Thompson, M. B. (2016). Turning novices into fingerprint experts.
    2016 Tangen, J. M., Searston, R. A., & Thompson, M. B. (2016). Error, the demand for hypervigilance, and the abrupt limits of expertise.

Tangen, J. M., Searston, R. A., Thompson, M. B., Edmond, G., Eva, K. W., Osborn, S, McCarthy, D., Hayes, R. (2018-2022). Australian Research Council Linkage Project Scheme (LP170100086, $AU $534,188) on 'Creating perceptual experts in Australia's policing and security agencies'. 

Lodge, J. M., Searston, R. A., Fidler, F., Bailey, J., Little, D., Nolan, D. (2018). Melbourne Networked Society Institute Seed Funding grant ($AU 37,368) on 'Combating fake news and misinformation online: Evaluating and updating conceptual understanding in the networked society'. 

Searston, R. A. (2017-2020). University of Melbourne McKenzie Postdoctoral Research Fellowship ($AU 282,245 + $20,000 project costs).

Searston, R. A. (2013-2016). Australian Government Australian Postgraduate Award ($AU 73,959).

I coordinate and teach the capstone course on research methods: Doing Research in Psychology Advanced. I also teach a fourth year course on Mind, Brain & Behaviour.

  • Position: Lecturer
  • Phone: 83130057
  • Email: rachel.searston@adelaide.edu.au
  • Campus: North Terrace
  • Building: Hughes, floor 7
  • Room: 7 15
  • Org Unit: School of Psychology

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