Dr Rachel Stephens

Dr Rachel Stephens

Dr Rachel Stephens

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Contact details

Phone: 9385 3913
Email: Dr Rachel Stephens

Office: Mathews Building Room 703

Research Summary

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

My primary research interest is human reasoning and its underlying cognitive processes, with the overarching question: how do people make predictions or inferences about novel situations based on existing knowledge?

My current main projects are testing dual-process theories of reasoning, which propose that two qualitatively different kinds of cognitive processes contribute to human reasoning, judgment, and decision-making. 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 (UNSW) and Prof. John Dunn (University of Western Australia) involves testing whether dual-process theories are needed to account for inductive and deductive reasoning – assessments of whether an inference is ‘plausible’ based on some given information, or ‘logically follows’ from particular information, respectively. Another project with Prof. Michael Kalish (Syracuse University) tests similar dual-process theories in the domain of category learning. An important finding across this research is that despite the popularity of dual-process theories, key results that have been used to support them are consistent with simpler single-process theories.

Another ongoing branch of my research with Dr Carolyn Semmler (University of Adelaide) involves face matching: decisions about whether two images show the same (unfamiliar) person. We are interested in when people’s confidence in a decision can be used to predict accuracy. Importantly, we examine the effect of rare non-matches, as occurs in some applied contexts such as border security.