Rachel Stephens

Dr Rachel Stephens

Lecturer

School of Psychology

Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences

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


Lecturer in Psychology

Research Areas: Inductive and deductive reasoning, category learning, face matching.

I am a Cognitive Scientist. My research focuses on testing the cognitive processes that drive human reasoning and decision-making, with the overarching question: how do people draw conclusions or make decisions, based on new and existing knowledge? I seek to understand the strengths of human thinking and also the situational and cognitive factors that can lead to errors and biases in thinking. This will inform the development of interventions (e.g. reasoning aids or training) that can help people to reason more effectively.

One of my current main lines of research is testing influential dual-process theories, which propose that human reasoning and judgement is driven by two qualitatively different kinds of cognitive processes: One is often characterized as fast and intuitive, while the other is described as slow and deliberative. A major project I am working on with Prof. Brett Hayes (University of New South Wales) and Prof. John Dunn (University of Western Australia) involves testing whether dual-process theories are needed to account for reasoning across a range of contexts, such as when people are put under time pressure, are preoccupied with other tasks, or are faced with different task instructions. An important finding of our work has been that despite the popularity of dual-process theories, simpler single-process theories have not yet been ruled out. This suggests that the dual-process distinction may be unwarranted.

Another ongoing branch of my research with Dr Keith Ransom, Assoc. Prof. Andrew Perfors (University of Melbourne), Dr Rachel Searston, and others, involves examining how people weigh up information obtained from social contexts (such as social media) and perceive the level of consensus in a given claim. This is a complex reasoning problem because the independence of sources and original evidence is often unclear. We have received funding from Defence Innovation Partnership and the University of Adelaide's Digi+ FAME scheme to develop digital tools that can help people calibrate their beliefs appropriately against the available evidence.

 

PhD, Masters, Honours, or Intern Research Projects

Please contact me if you are interested in any of these projects:

  1. Theoretical or applied research in reasoning and decision making, including under time-pressure or in high-stakes situations. Applied research includes investigating how people assess the healthiness of foods based on their labels (Nutrition Information Panel, etc.).
     
  2. Training reasoning and critical thinking skills in educational or occupational settings.
     
  3. Developing and testing reasoning aids, such as the fact-checking tags on Twitter.
     
  4. Modelling the time-course of inductive and deductive reasoning.
     
  5. Investigating the neuropsychology of inductive and deductive reasoning, e.g., EEG and/or fMRI research.
     
  6. Exploring developmental changes in the reasoning of children or older adults.
     
  • Appointments

    Date Position Institution name
    2019 - ongoing Lecturer University of Adelaide
    2015 - 2019 Postdoctoral Research Fellow University of New South Wales
    2014 - 2015 Postdoctoral Research Fellow Syracuse University
    2012 - 2014 Lecturer University of Adelaide
  • Awards and Achievements

    Date Type Title Institution Name Country Amount
    2022 Teaching Award Executive Dean's Teaching Excellence Award University of Adelaide Australia
    2020 Teaching Award University of Adelaide Special Commendation - COVID 19 Emergency Teaching Response University of Adelaide Australia
    2019 Teaching Award Executive Dean's Team Award University of Adelaide Australia
    2013 Teaching Award Executive Dean's Learning & Teaching Prize University of Adelaide Australia
    2009 Teaching Award School of Psychology’s Excellence in Teaching Award University of Adelaide Australia
    2007 Scholarship Australian Postgraduate Award Australian Federal Government Australia
  • Education

    Date Institution name Country Title
    University of Adelaide Australia PhD in Psychology
    University of Adelaide Australia Bachelor of Psychology (Honours)
  • Research Interests

2022

Rachel Stephens, Keith Ransom, Rachel Searston, Zygmunt Szpak, Fernando Marmolejo-Ramos, Dragana Pittas.
Collaborative Research Fund, Defence Innovation Partnership.  $150,000, 12 months.
Project: Advancing SOCRETIS (“SOCial REasoning Tool & Interactive System”): An AI-enabled collaborative reasoning aid for the information environment.

2022

Rachel Stephens.
Emerging Leaders Development Award, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Adelaide. $40,000, 9 months.
Project: Characterising the processes of thinking fast and slow.

2022

Keith Ransom, Rachel Stephens, Carolyn Semmler & Lewis Mitchell.
In association with: Andrew Perfors & Christopher Leckie.
Digi+ FAME program (Information Capability mission), University of Adelaide.  $99,050, 18 months.
Project: MAGPIE: Monitoring And Guarding the Public Information Environment.

2021

Zygmunt Szpak, Wojciech Chojnacki, Rachel Stephens, Keith Ransom & Rachel Searston.
AI for Decision Making Program Round 2, Department of Defence and the Office of National Intelligence, delivered in partnership with the Defence Innovation Partnership in South Australia.  $100,000, 6 months.
Project: A tool for human-in-the-loop contextual anomaly detection

2020

Rachel Stephens & Keith Ransom.
AI for Decision Making Program
Department of Defence and the Office of National Intelligence, delivered in partnership with the Defence Innovation Partnership in South Australia.  $20,000, 3 months.
Project tile: Testing human responses to AI fact-checking and uncertainty
Project ID: 167650398

I have extensive experience in undergraduate teaching in cognitive psychology, research methods, and statistics.

I am Course Coordinator for Psychology 1A and Psychology 1B. I also teach into Doing Research In Psychology (level 2) and Research Methods in Psychology (level 1).

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

    Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name
    2022 Principal Supervisor Sharing Misinformation: The Socio-Psychological Mechanisms of Spread Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Emily Brooke Mullins
  • Other Supervision Activities

    Date Role Research Topic Location Program Supervision Type Student Load Student Name
    2021 - ongoing Principal Supervisor Testing theories of transitive reasoning University of Adelaide Honours Full Time Nadia Scott
    2021 - ongoing Principal Supervisor Testing reasoning aids for social meta-inference University of Adelaide Honours Full Time Hannah Le Leu
    2021 - ongoing Co-Supervisor Testing memory effects in social reasoning University of Adelaide Honours Full Time Bryan Banks
    2020 - ongoing Principal Supervisor Testing dual-process theories of reasoning development The University of Adelaide Honours Minling Tan
    2020 - ongoing Principal Supervisor Testing cognitive theories of nutrition judgements based on food labelling The University of Adelaide Honours Seok-Jun Kang
  • Memberships

    Date Role Membership Country
    2021 - ongoing Vice-President Australian Society for Mathematical Psychology Australia
    2019 - ongoing Member Fellow of the Psychonomic Society United States

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