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 is a Lecturer in the School of Psychology, and studies the nature and development of expert cognition and decision-making. She collaborates with practitioners in a range of industries, including major Australian policing and forensic agencies. Rachel was a McKenzie Fellow at the University of Melbourne and completed her PhD in Cognitive Science at The University of Queensland.

Professionals in a variety of domains are capable of extraordinary feats of expertise. What gives rise to the ability to diagnose a rare disease, develop an elegant solution to a programming problem, spot a suspect’s face in a crowd, or discriminate highly degraded samples of evidence left at a crime-scene? How do experts’ mental representations and decision processes differ from novices’ in these areas? What predicts expert performance? What is the best way to optimise the development of expertise with training and experience?

The Expert Cognition Lab focuses on fundamental questions about the nature and development of expertise as they apply to practical problems in industry. We are interested in understanding how best to create expert performance in contexts such as medicine, forensic science, security, and education. We are working to develop a scientific basis for the selection, training, and assessment of expert performers.

Our research in forensics has resulted in a better understanding of the nature and development of perceptual expertise in fingerprint examination, and the factors that predict expert performance. We collaborate with practitioners and industry partners to create selection, training, and assessment tools with a tangible operational benefit. 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. We aim to reveal general principles for creating expertise that can be applied across professional domains.

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  • Journals

    Year Citation
    2019 Searston, R., Thompson, M., Vokey, J., French, L., & Tangen, J. (2019). How low can you go? detecting style in extremely low resolution images. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 45(5), 573-584.
    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 Scopus4 WoS4
    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 Scopus1 WoS1
    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
    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 Scopus3 WoS3
    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 Scopus5 WoS5 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 Scopus12 WoS7 Europe PMC3
    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 Scopus4 WoS4
    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 Scopus8 WoS7 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 Scopus10 WoS8
    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 Scopus14 WoS10
    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 WoS3 Europe PMC1
  • Conference Papers

    Year Citation
    2019 Palada, H., Searston, R. A., Persson, A., Ballard, T., & Thomspon, M. B. (2019). Accumulating evidence about evidence accumulation models in applied contexts. In Australasian Mathematical Psychology Conference 2019. Melbourne.
    2019 Thompson, M. B., Palada, H., Searston, R. A., Persson, A., & Ballard, T. (2019). Modelling the dynamics of perceptual discrimination with complex naturalistic stimuli. In EXPERIMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY CONFERENCE. Wellington, New Zealand.
    2019 Robson, S., Corbett, B., Searston, R. A., Thompson, M. B., & Tangen, J. M. (2019). Adapting visual search tasks to investigate the analytic components of perceptual expertise. In 46th Annual Conference of the Australasian Society for Experimental Psychology. Wellington.
    2019 Searston, R. A., Corbett, B., Robson, S., Thompson, M. B., & Tangen, J. M. (2019). Perceptual experts can rely on stylistic gist information to discriminate naturalistic visual stimuli. In 46th Annual Conference of the Australasian Society for Experimental Psychology. Wellington.
    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., & Lodge, J. (2018). Interdisciplinary open science: What are the implications for educational technology research?. In ASCILITE 2018 35th International Conference Proceedings (pp. 303-308). 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.
    2018 Lodge, J., Alhadad, S., & Searston, R. (2018). Open science in applied and use-inspired basic research. In UQ Open Science Conference 2018. Brisbane, Australia.
    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
    2019 Tangen, J. M., Searston, R. A., & Thompson, M. B. (2019). Creating perceptual experts in Australia’s policing and security agencies. Poster session presented at the meeting of 13th Biennial Meeting of the Society for Applied Research in Memory and Cognition. Cape Cod, MA, United States.
    2018 Palada, H., Searston, R., Persson, A., Thompson, M., & 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 Abstracts of the Psychonomic Society. New Orleans, Louisiana, USA: Psychonomic Society.
    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.

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

    Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name
    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
  • 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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