Rachel Searston

Dr Rachel Searston


School of Psychology

Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences

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

Rachel is a Lecturer in the School of Psychology at The University of Adelaide. Her research group studies expert decision-making and communication in forensic science, policing, defence, and health contexts. Rachel was formerly a McKenzie Fellow at the University of Melbourne and completed her PhD in Cognitive Science at The University of Queensland.

We rely on the clarity and credibility of expert advice in every sector of society to guide our actions and decisions. We turn to experts to better understand and weigh up the risks and benefits of different treatments in the doctor's office. We consider expert opinion when deliberating on the guilt or innocence of persons accused of serious crimes in the courtroom. We count on expert advice to guide our responses to natural disasters, public health crises, and other arising global challenges. In the Expert Cognition Lab, we focus on questions about the nature and communication of expert decisions as they apply to practical problems arising within organisations and across industries. For example, we are interested in understanding what makes an expert an expert, how to optimise expert decision-making, and how best to communicate expert advice for optimal decision-making in policing, defence, and online information environments. 

Our research model involves close collaboration with practitioners and partners in industry to develop solutions to human-in-the-loop problems with tangible operational benefits. Our research in the forensic science context, for example, is helping to identify evidence-based methods for training and selecting new forensic examiners. The outcomes of this research assist forensic examiners, in policing, intelligence and security systems, to make accurate and timely decisions, reduce the risk of error, and reduce the time and resources taken from frontline policing to train experts. 

Honours Projects 2022

Honours projects will investigate basic and applied problems related to expert decision-making: What makes an expert credible? What factors affect public trust in experts? How do people interpret and integrate information provided by multiple experts? What is the best way to present expert opinion on scientific evidence in a legal context or in a social media context? How do approaches to news reporting affect comprehension and trust in expert advice? How can we best support human/expert reasoning in novel environments (e.g., in space)? These projects will involve quantitative and experimental methods, but may also use a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods. 

Tangen, J. M., Searston, R. A., & Thompson, M. B (2022-2024). Australian Federal Police, National Institute of Forensic Science, and Victoria Police ($AU160,000 combined funding) on 'Telling Prints Apart vs Telling Prints Together :Inter- vs Intra-print variability in Fingerprint Analysis'. 

Szpak, Z., Stephens, R., Ransom, K., & Searston, R. A. (2022-2023). Defence Innovation Partnership AI for Decision-Making Project ($AU 100,000) on 'A tool for human-in-the-loop contextual anomaly detection'.

Searston, R. A. (2020-2021). Defence Innovation Partnership AI for Decision-Making Project ($AU 20,000) on 'Improving the visual communication of uncertainty in artificial intelligence'. 

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 (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 + $AU 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 statistics and research methodology in psychology: Doing Research in Psychology: Advanced. I also teach a fourth year elective course called Mind, Brain & Behaviour.

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

    Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name
    2020 Co-Supervisor Biometrics for child protection: exploring ways to improve human performance in identifying children from images Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Eden Skye Clothier
    2019 Co-Supervisor Misinformation and 'Post-Truth' Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Natasha Renee Van Antwerpen
  • Other Supervision Activities

    Date Role Research Topic Location Program Supervision Type Student Load Student Name
    2019 - 2019 Principal Supervisor What is the optimal rate of image presentation for recognising people? The University of Adelaide Psychology Honours Full Time Carlos Ibaviosa
    2019 - 2019 Principal Supervisor Detecting changes in paintings and scenes The University of Adelaide Psychology Honours Full Time Athina Kakkos
    2019 - 2019 Principal Supervisor Discriminating artistic and naturalistic style in visual crowding The University of Adelaide Psychology Honours Full Time Carly Sullivan
    2018 - 2019 Principal Supervisor Perceptual expertise with classifying fingerprints The University of Adelaide Psychology Honours Full Time Anneliese Cavallaro
    2017 - ongoing Co-Supervisor Turning Novices into Experts: Training Perceptual Expertise The University of Queensland Doctor Philosophy Higher Doctorate Full Time Samuel Robson
  • 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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