New faculty

SFU Psychology Welcomes New Assistant Professor Adele Quigley-McBride

August 28, 2023

Adele Quigley-McBride has joined the Department of Psychology at Simon Fraser University as an assistant professor.

After completing her PhD at Iowa State University, Quigley-McBride was a postdoctoral associate at the Wilson Center for Science and Justice at Duke Law. Researching cognitive bias and decision making in the criminal justice system, Quigley-McBride’s research intersects law and psychology. This Fall 2023 term, she will be teaching PSYC 376: Experimental Psychology and Law. Learn more about Dr. Quigley-McBride below

What brought you to Simon Fraser University?

I am originally from New Zealand, but my mother is Canadian, and I lived in the Ontario area when I was a child. When it came time to decide what I would do after completing my undergraduate studies, I set my sights on North America because most of the research I was most interested in was happening there. I spent the last 8 years in the USA, completing my Ph.D. in Psychology at Iowa State University and then spending three years at Duke University School of Law working as a Postdoctoral Associate.

When I heard that Simon Fraser University was looking for new faculty, I jumped at the chance to join one of the best Psychology and Law programs in North America and return to a place that felt more like home. Although I have never spent much time in the Vancouver area, I had always heard that Vancouver was a beautiful place to live with lots of hiking and excellent food, so I knew that I would be very happy here.

What sparked your interest in psychology and law?

As an undergraduate in New Zealand, I was taking classes for my science degree (majoring in psychology) alongside classes for my law degree. I found that what I was learning about how people think, feel, and behave did not align with the rules designed to regulate human behaviour. Many laws relied on people to make decisions consistently and objectively, or recall information and events accurately, but there were decades of studies suggesting that people struggled to do exactly that. I started selecting courses that I thought might help me to understand this dynamic better, such as courses on jurisprudence and memory.

When I joined Professor Maryanne Garry’s cognitive psychology laboratory, I realized that I could make a career out of systematically studying the questions I had about human cognition and legal contexts. From that point on, I was focused on pursuing an academic career that would allow me to study questions that intersect psychology and law and teach others about these topics that I find so fascinating.

What is the most important issue that your research work addresses? And why/how is it important to you in particular?

One of my main research interests is how ambiguous information or subjective judgments affect important decisions in legal contexts. For example, determining if a suspect is guilty when an eyewitness identifies them from a lineup or when forensic analysts examine poor-quality evidence from a crime scene and draw conclusions about how it got there. The criminal legal system relies on subjective decisions and judgments like these, though the actual goal in these situations is an objective analysis and conclusion. Subjective decisions and judgments increase the chance of bias and error in legal outcomes, so one of my main research interests is designing and testing the use of objective data or information management protocols that can minimize the number of subjective judgments and mitigate bias in legal contexts. This is important because the research is grounded in psychological theory, but ultimately aims to produce something practical that can be used directly by those who need it in the real world.

What are you most looking forward to working at SFU and in the Department of Psychology?

I really enjoyed my time at Duke Law, but I am looking forward to being among other experimental psychologists again and returning to the rhythm of the academic year. I am excited about the new challenge of mentoring my own doctoral students and also looking forward to teaching courses again, as that was not part of my role as a postdoctoral researcher. I am also very excited to meet and get to know the other faculty. At Duke Law, I started working there during the pandemic, so it was very difficult to form connections as a newcomer. So, I feel really lucky to have gained so many brilliant, friendly, and hard-working collaborators at SFU!

Do you have any advice to students who may want to consider graduate school or a career in Psychology?

I am a firm believer that the skills you gain as a student in Psychology are widely applicable to a variety of careers. In almost every context, it is important to know how people think and behave, how to interpret research and explain complex ideas, and how to translate data into something meaningful. These are skills that you learn as an undergraduate psychology student and are further developed along with other more advanced skills in a graduate Psychology program.

I think it is important to think hard about whether graduate school is right for you, but it is also important to know that a career in academia is not the only way to use a graduate degree. Getting involved in as many different research laboratories and research projects is the best way to see whether the challenge of graduate school is right for you. As an undergraduate, I started volunteering in psychology laboratories in my first year, and then was hired as a research assistant in another laboratory for the last few years of my undergraduate studies. This experience solidified my choice to pursue a graduate degree and a career in academia, and I gained so much intellectually and personally from the hours I spent working on research as an undergraduate.