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Professor Stephen Monsell

Professor Stephen Monsell

Emeritus Professor of Cognitive Psychology

 Washington Singer 230


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


I am an experimental cognitive psychologist with interests in human attention and performance, psycholinguistics and working memory.


MA DPhil (Oxon)


After an undergraduate degree in Psychology and Philosophy, and a doctorate in experimental psychology, both at Oxford, I held postdoctoral fellowships at Stanford, Bell Labs (Murray Hill NJ) and Oxford.  I was then an assistant professor in the Department of Behavioural Sciences at the  University of Chicago for several years, a lecturer in Experimental Psychology at Cambridge (and fellow of Pembroke College) for many more, and was appointed to a chair in Cognitive Psychology at Exeter in 1999. I retired in 2018, but remain active in research, currently with a Leverhulme Emeritus Fellowship grant.

Research group links

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Research interests

Experimental cognitive psychology

  • Attention and performance, especially control of mental processes (also known as "executive function" or "attentional control"). My research for the last two decades or so has focused on control of "task-set" -- how we organise our minds/brains to perform a particular cognitive task, and how we switch between tasks.
  • Psycholinguistics: I have worked on recognition of written and spoken words, strategic control of routes in reading aloud, aspects of speech production (word selection, phonological encoding and articulatory programming), relation between speech input and speech output processing, phonological buffers in working memory, the bilingual lexicon.
  • Memory for recent occurrence, i.e. knowing that one has seen someone/something recently.

The majority of my work has used chronometric behavioural measures with normal adult subjects, and (in collaboration with Aureliu Lavric and Heike Elchlepp) EEG/ERP.  But I have also collaborated in projects studying brain-damaged patients, and using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and eyetracking in normal adults.

Research projects

For the last 3 decades or more, my main research interest had been control of task-set, studied largely through experiments on task-switching.  Recent publications focus on the attentional component of task-set, and the contribution of "attentional inertia" to the costs of switching tasks, in several domains, including attention to voices, and switching between linguistic and non-linguistic processing of verbal stimuli.

My current Leverhulme Emeritus Fellowship project is on acquisition of novel tasks: the process of developing an efficient "procedural" representation of a new task from instructions and feedback.

Other active areas of research include word production, and language switching.

Research grants

  • 2017 Leverhulme Trust
    Emeritus Fellowship: An investigation of task set acquisition

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External Engagement and Impact

Administrative responsibilities

Committee/panel activities

Fellow, Association for Psychological Science

Fellow, Psychonomic Society

Member, Experimental Psychology Society

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Information not currently available

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Supervision / Group

Postgraduate researchers

  • Felice van t'Wout


  • Heike Elchlepp
  • Hannah Filmer Postdoc at University of Queensland
  • Charlotte Forrest
  • Cai Longman
  • Tobias Stevens
  • Felice van t'Wout
  • Felice van t'Wout
  • Felice van t'Wout

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Office Hours:

As a retired member of staff I do not have office hours, but students are welcome to contact me by Email

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