Dr Vanessa Beanland
Australian National University
Dr Beanland’s research interests encompass two broad areas, visual cognition and human factors in transport. Psychological research reveals that consciously “seeing” is more complex than simply looking; our eyes determine what we look at, but what we perceive is determined by factors including what we attend to, what we expect to see, and what else we are thinking or doing at the time. She is addressing two broad questions within this research. First, how do these expectations form? Understanding this will help us devise more driver training programs, which minimise the likelihood of perceptual errors. Second, to what extent do external factors such as sleepiness or distractions such as mobile phones exacerbate these failures of attention? While this seems intuitively obvious, concrete evidence is required to inform policy, vehicle design, and road safety campaigns that deter drivers from unsafe acts.
Vanessa regularly participates in media interviews via TV, radio, newspapers and online outlets. She has also given research talks to community groups and non-academic organisations, including organisations specifically interested in road safety (eg, Australian Motorcycle Council, Royal Automobile Club WA) and groups interested in science more broadly (e.g. Canberra Skeptics).
Vanessa has made several school visits each year to speak to year 10-12 students about studying psychology and current research.