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 Stephen Jeffs

Stephen Jeffs


 Washington Singer 217


Washington Singer Laboratories, University of Exeter, Perry Road, Prince of Wales Road, Exeter, EX4 4QG, UK


I'm a research psychologist with particular interests in the neuropsychology of aging, and the behavioural psychology of reward-seeking.

I characterise early markers of later problems, such as how subtle navigation deficits predict later episodes of getting lost, or how declines in general motivation predict later interpersonal problems.

My recent work in Norwich aimed to provide early detection tools for people at risk of dementia, focussing on how a decline in navigation ability may pre-date other cognitive difficulties, such as memory complaints. 

My PhD work at Sussex investigated the interplay between cognition, emotion, and motivation, within the context of tobacco health warnings. I showed that conscious awareness of nicotine availability was required for people to initiate smoking, but that their efforts to obtain nicotine could be suppressed by aversive health warnings.


My passion for all things mind, brain, and behaviour, began in my teens when a family friend had a stroke.
I wanted to learn more, and so completed a Psychology A Level under the nurturing guidance of Dr Rachel Baron. (Thanks Rachel.)

After a BSc in Psychology at Leeds, and MSc in Neuropsychology at Nottingham, I completed a PhD in Behavioural Psychology at Sussex.

Following my PhD, I worked as an Assistant Neuropsychologist, before becoming a Post-doc Research Assistant on a dementia project at Norwich Medical School.

I'm now a Lecturer in the Psychology Department at Exeter, where I use my diverse background to ensure an excellent student learning experience.

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Research interests

My research interests are in both basic and applied psychology, and I like to translate basic science into applied situations.


My basic research investigates the triad of cognition, emotion, and motivation.
I'm interested in how thinking and feeling interact to influence doing. For example, when we encounter the smell of coffee, do we need to know that it's the smell of coffee, or can we just feel something positive, for the smell to encourage us into the coffee shop?
I investigate this kind of question using Pavlovian-Instrumental Transfer (PIT) paradigms.


My applied interests focus on healthy aging, and dementia.
I'm interested in how age-related changes in psychological processes affect daily functioning. For example, which changes in cognitive function predict safer driving as we age?
In dementia, I measure how subtle changes in personality predict later need for behavioural support. For example, why does withdrawal from social activity predict greater need for care-giver support?


I like to combine my basic and applied interests to promote healthy aging. I'm interested in whether targetting motivational deficits can have a wider impact on cognitive health. For example, could exposure to positive contexts, like a garden, delay a dementia diagnosis in people with Mild Cognitive Impairment?

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Journal articles

Lowry E, Coughlan G, Morrissey S, Jeffs S, Hornberger M (2023). Spatial orientation – a stable marker for vascular cognitive impairment?. Cerebral Circulation - Cognition and Behavior, 4, 100155-100155.
Gwinnutt JM, Toyoda T, Jeffs S, Flanagan E, Chipping JR, Dainty JR, Mioshi E, Hornberger M, MacGregor A (2021). Reduced cognitive ability in people with rheumatoid arthritis compared with age-matched healthy controls. Rheumatol Adv Pract, 5(2). Abstract.  Author URL.
Lowry E, Puthusseryppady V, Coughlan G, Jeffs S, Hornberger M (2020). Path Integration Changes as a Cognitive Marker for Vascular Cognitive Impairment?-A Pilot Study. Front Hum Neurosci, 14 Abstract.  Author URL.
Jeffs S, Duka T (2019). Single-response appetitive Pavlovian to instrumental transfer is suppressed by aversive counter-conditioning. Q J Exp Psychol (Hove), 72(12), 2820-2832. Abstract.  Author URL.
Coughlan G, Flanagan E, Jeffs S, Bertoux M, Spiers H, Mioshi E, Hornberger M (2018). Diagnostic relevance of spatial orientation for vascular dementia: a case study. Dementia e Neuropsychologia, 12(1), 85-91. Abstract.
Jeffs S, Duka T (2017). Predictive but not emotional value of Pavlovian stimuli leads to pavlovian-to-instrumental transfer. Behav Brain Res, 321, 214-222. Abstract.  Author URL.

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Widening Participation

I was the first in my family to complete a Higher Education degree. Education got me where I am now (thanks a lot, Education), so I'd like to help widen access for other people.

MSc Psychology (Conversion) Online

Our online Psychology conversion programme is a great example of how we're widening participation in Psychology. If you've already completed a higher education degree in another subject, and want to apply your skills to psychology, then our online conversion programme can be completed anywhere. You can fit your study time around your existing work, family, or other commitments, and the programme is designed to be as widely accessible as possible.

If you'd like to learn more, then click through to the programme page here:

Exeter Scholars

To help aspiring students make an informed decision about whether and what to study in Higher Education, I deliver practical sessions about psychology with school students, through the Exeter Scholars programme.

Scholars - click through to this [currently unavailable Padlet] to begin your session.



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Office Hours:

Monday, Wednesday, Friday

Check times, and book a slot in advance, via the link below:

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