Biography

I have been involved with psychology for more than 3 decades. I have developed an international reputation for research on alcohol and emotional language. My research on the benefits of swearing for pain tolerance and for performing physical tasks is very well known and has been portrayed numerous times in the media

I have given 9 keynote lectures at academic conferences and an additional 67 conference presentations. I have given invited talks about my research to 27 university departments and I have given 29 talks at popular science events, schools and colleges, including a TEDx talk

I am passionately interested in science communication, which is writing about science for non-academic audiences. In this arena I won the 2014 Wellcome Trust & Guardian Science Writing Prize, and 2015 marked the worldwide publication of my popular science book, Black Sheep The Hidden Benefits of Being Bad, to critical acclaim. The book won the 2017 British Psychological Society Book of the Year Award (Popular Science Category). 

I have had popular science articles published across print media and blogs, with over 1 million reads on The Conversation. These include, ”Think swearing isn’t big or clever? Think again”, “The psychology of roller coasters”, “The science of saying sorry”, and Swearing can help you boost your physical performance". 

I have served on the committee of the British Psychological Society Psychologist and Digest Editorial Advisory Committee since January 2017. I am a former Chair of the British Psychological Society Psychobiology Section (2013-2017) and continue to serve as a committee member. I am or have been external examiner for the BSc Psychology courses at Westminster University, Surrey University and Queen Mary University London. I became a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy on 15th October 2015, recognition number PR094004. 

For latest updates follow me on twitter: @psychologyrich

I am always pleased to hear from students interested in working on a PhD under my supervision. An ideal starting point for a PhD is for me to supervise your dissertation on the MSc Cognition and Cognitive Neuroscience here at Keele. Please get in touch by email.

Research and scholarship

Psychological benefits of swearing 

I have a long-standing interest in the psychological benefits of swearing, an area which I research using experimental psychology methodologies. My most recent paper, published in 2020, assessed whether we can mimic the beneficial effects of swearing on pain using newly invented swear words. This research, sponsored by Nurofen, reached an audience of 84 million people via stories in the media. Recent published studies have assessed taboo gesticulations, effects of swearing on strength and power performance, whether swearing shows cross-cultural effects, and a study of how altering one’s level of emotional arousal affects swearing fluency

MSc and PhD Supervision

I'd be very pleased to speak to prospective MSc or PhD students about supervising dissertation research in any of the above areas. Please get in touch by email.

Teaching

Modules lead by Dr Stephens
  • PSY-30099 Key Readings in Cognitive Psychology
  • PSY-40045 MSc Dissertation
Modules on which Dr Stephens is a lecturer or tutor
  • PSY-10019 Applied Psychology
  • PSY-10031 Introduction to statistics for psychology
  • PSY-10033 Introduction to developmental and social psychology
  • PSY-10034 Introduction to biological and cognitive psychology
  • PSY-20044 Statistics for Psychology
  • PSY-20045 Biological and Cognitive Psychology
  • PSY-30061 Final Year Project
  • PSY-30067 Individual Differences and Conceptual Issues
  • PSY-40039 Advanced Research Skills and Design
  • PSY-40075 Cognitive Neuroscience

The full text version of my 2018 paper "Effect of swearing on strength and power performance", published in the peer-review journal "Psychology of Sport and Exercise" is available to download here.

Selected Publications

  • Stephens R, Rutherford A, Potter D, Fernie G. 2010. Neuropsychological consequence of soccer play in adolescent U.K. School team soccer players. Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, vol. 22(3), 295-303. link> doi>
  • Stephens R, Atkins J, Kingston A. 2009. Swearing as a response to pain. Neuroreport, vol. 20(12), 1056-1060. link> doi>
  • Stephens R and Robertson O. 2020. Swearing as a Response to Pain: Assessing Hypoalgesic Effects of Novel "Swear" Words. Front Psychol, vol. 11, 723. link> doi> full text>
  • Stephens R, Bosworth G, SHEPHERD T. 2018. Playing in the UEFA Europa League Does Not Adversely Affect English Premier League or La Liga Performance. Journal of Functional Morphology and Kinesiology, vol. 4(1). doi> link> full text>
  • Jacobs M, van Beest I, Stephens R. 2019. Taboo gesticulations as a response to pain. Scand J Pain, vol. 19(2), 397-406. link> doi> full text>

Full Publications List show

Books

  • Stephens R. 2015. Black Sheep: The Hidden Benefits of Being Bad. Hachette UK.

Journal Articles

  • Stephens R and Robertson O. 2020. Swearing as a Response to Pain: Assessing Hypoalgesic Effects of Novel "Swear" Words. Front Psychol, vol. 11, 723. link> doi> full text>
  • Stephens R, Bosworth G, SHEPHERD T. 2018. Playing in the UEFA Europa League Does Not Adversely Affect English Premier League or La Liga Performance. Journal of Functional Morphology and Kinesiology, vol. 4(1). doi> link> full text>
  • Jacobs M, van Beest I, Stephens R. 2019. Taboo gesticulations as a response to pain. Scand J Pain, vol. 19(2), 397-406. link> doi> full text>
  • Stephens R, Spierer DK, Katehis E. 2018. Effect of swearing on strength and power performance. PSYCHOLOGY OF SPORT AND EXERCISE, vol. 35, 111-117. link> doi> full text>
  • Robertson O, Robinson SJ, Stephens R. 2017. Swearing as a response to pain: A cross-cultural comparison of British and Japanese participants. Scand J Pain, vol. 17, 267-272. link> doi> full text>
  • Stephens R, Holloway K, Grange JA, Owen L, Jones K, Kruisselbrink D. 2017. Does familial risk for alcohol use disorder predict alcohol hangover?. Psychopharmacology (Berl), vol. 234(12), 1795-1802. link> doi> full text>
  • Stephens R and Zile A. 2017. Does Emotional Arousal Influence Swearing Fluency?. J Psycholinguist Res, vol. 46(4), 983-995. link> doi> full text>
  • Grange JA, Stephens R, Jones K, Owen L. 2016. The effect of alcohol hangover on choice response time. J Psychopharmacol, vol. 30(7), 654-661. link> doi> full text>
  • Stephens R and Grant MJ. 2015. Reporting statistical analyses in peer review journal articles. Health Information and Libraries Journal, vol. 32(2), 81-83. link> doi>
  • Stephens R, Grange JA, Jones K, Owen L. 2014. A critical analysis of alcohol hangover research methodology for surveys or studies of effects on cognition. Psychopharmacology (Berl), vol. 231(11), 2223-2236. link> doi>
  • Heffernan T, Clark R, Bartholomew J, Ling J, Stephens R. 2013. 'Does binge drinking in teenagers affect their everyday prospective memory?' (vol 109, pg 73, 2010). DRUG AND ALCOHOL DEPENDENCE, vol. 132(3), 694. link> doi>
  • Read S, Nte S, Corcoran P, Stephens R. 2013. Using action research to design bereavement software: engaging people with intellectual disabilities for effective development. J Appl Res Intellect Disabil, vol. 26(3), 195-206. link> doi>
  • Tolstrup J, Stephens R, Gronbaek M. 2013. Does the severity of hangovers decline with age? Survey of the incidence of hangover in different age groups. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. doi>
  • Stephens R. 2013. Is love a drug?. The British Psychological Society Psychobiology Section Newsletter, 5-6.
  • Stephens R. 2013. Swearing - the language of life and death. The Psychologist, vol. 26(9), 650-653.
  • Partington S, Partington E, Heather N, Longstaff F, Allsop S, Jankowski M, Wareham H, Stephens R, Gibson AS. 2013. The relationship between membership of a university sports group and drinking behaviour among students at English Universities. Addiction Research & Theory, vol. 21(4), 339-347. doi>
  • Stephens R and Allsop C. 2012. Effect of manipulated state aggression on pain tolerance. Psychological Reports, vol. 111(1), 311-321. link> doi>
  • Stephens R. 2012. Rat Park – challenging ideas about addiction. The British Psychological Society Psychobiology Section Newsletter, 7-9.
  • Stephens R. 2012. Sun, Sea Shakes. The British Psychological Society Psychobiology Section Newsletter, 7-9.
  • Stephens R. 2011. Do Individual Differences Moderate the Cognitive Benefits of Chewing Gum?. Psychology, vol. 2(8), 834-840. doi>
  • Stephens R and Umland C. 2011. Swearing as a response to pain-effect of daily swearing frequency. Journal of Pain, vol. 12(12), 1274-1281. link> doi>
  • Ling J, Luczakiewicz K, Heffernan TM, Stephens R. 2010. SUBJECTIVE RATINGS OF PROSPECTIVE MEMORY DEFICITS IN CHRONIC ALCOHOL USERS. PSYCHOLOGICAL REPORTS, vol. 106(3), 905-917. link> doi>
  • Ling J, Stephens R, Heffernen TM. 2010. Cognitive and Psychomotor Performance During Alcohol Hangover. Current Drug Abuse Reviews, vol. 3, 80-87. doi>
  • Heffernen T, Clark R, Bartholomew J, Ling J, Stephens R. 2010. Does binge drinking in teenagers affect their everyday prospective memory?. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, vol. 109(1-3), 73-78. doi>
  • Stephens R and Verster JC. 2010. Editorial: The Importance of Raising the Profile of Alcohol Hangover Research. Current Drug Abuse Reviews, vol. 3, 64-67. doi>
  • Stephens R, Rutherford A, Potter D, Fernie G. 2010. Neuropsychological consequence of soccer play in adolescent U.K. School team soccer players. Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, vol. 22(3), 295-303. link> doi>
  • Verster JC, Stephens R, Penning R, Rohsenow D. 2010. The Alcohol Hangover Research Group Consensus Statement on Best Practice in Alcohol Hangover Research. Current Drug Abuse Reviews, vol. 3, 116-126. doi>
  • RUTHERFORD A, Stephens R, Fernie G, Potter D. 2009. Do UK university football club players suffer neuropsychological impairment as a consequence of their football (soccer) play?. Journal of Clinical & Experimental Neuropsychology, 641-681. doi>
  • Jenkinson PM, Edelstyn NMJ, Stephens R, Ellis SJ. 2009. Why are some Parkinson’s disease patients unaware of their dyskinesias?. Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology. doi>
  • STEPHENS R and Nte S. 2009. Development and evaluation of an interactive visual workspace to aid the intuitive understanding of ANOVA (Analysis of Variance). Psychology Learning and Teaching, vol. 8, 14-20. link> link>
  • Stephens R, Atkins J, Kingston A. 2009. Swearing as a response to pain. Neuroreport, vol. 20(12), 1056-1060. link> doi>
  • Stephens R and Kaufman A. 2009. The role of long-term memory in digit-symbol test performance in young and older adults. Neuropsychol Dev Cogn B Aging Neuropsychol Cogn, vol. 16(2), 219-240. link> doi>
  • Jenkinson PM, Edelstyn NMJ, Stephens R, Ellis SJ. 2009. Why are some Parkinson disease patients unaware of their dyskinesias?. Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology, vol. 22, 117-121. doi>
  • Rutherford A, Stephens R, Fernie G, Potter D. 2009. Do UK university football club players suffer neuropsychological impairment as a consequence of their football (soccer) play?. J Clin Exp Neuropsychol, vol. 31(6), 664-681. link> doi>
  • Stephens R, Ling J, Heffernan TM, Heather N, Jones K. 2008. A response to the paper 'investigation of the "Hangover" effects of an acute dose of alcohol on psychomotor performance' by Lemon. ALCOHOL AND ALCOHOLISM, vol. 43(4), 499. link> doi>
  • Stephens R, Ling J, Heffernan TM, Heather N, Jones K. 2008. A review of the literature on the cognitive effects of alcohol hangover. Alcohol Alcohol, vol. 43(2), 163-170. link> doi>
  • Woolmore J, Stone M, Holley S, Jenkinson P, Ike A, Jones P, Fryer A, Strange R, Stephens R, Langdon D, Hawkins C. 2008. Polymorphisms of the cannabinoid 1 receptor gene and cognitive impairment in multiple sclerosis. Mult Scler, vol. 14(2), 177-182. link> doi>
  • Stephens R. 2006. Age-related decline in Digit-Symbol performance: eye-movement and video analysis. Arch Clin Neuropsychol, vol. 21(1), 101-107. link> doi>
  • Stephens R, Rutherford A, Potter D, Fernie G. 2005. Neuropsychological impairment as a consequence of football (soccer) play and football heading: a preliminary analysis and report on school students (13-16 years). Child Neuropsychol, vol. 11(6), 513-526. link> doi>
  • Rutherford A, Stephens R, Potter D, Fernie G. 2005. Neuropsychological impairment as a consequence of football (soccer) play and football heading: preliminary analyses and report on university footballers. J Clin Exp Neuropsychol, vol. 27(3), 299-319. link> doi>
  • STEPHENS R and Sreenivasen B. 2004. Neuropsychological effects of long-term low-level organophosphate exposure in orchard sprayers in England. Archives of Environmental Health, vol. 59(11), 566-574. doi>
  • Stephens R and Tunney RJ. 2004. How does chewing gum affect cognitive function? Reply to Scholey (2004). Appetite, vol. 43(2), 217-218. link> doi>
  • Stephens R and Tunney RJ. 2004. Role of glucose in chewing gum-related facilitation of cognitive function. Appetite, vol. 43(2), 211-213. link> doi>
  • Stephens R. 2003. To head, or not to head? What was the question?. PSYCHOLOGIST, vol. 16(12), 655. link>
  • Rutherford A, Stephens R, Potter D. 2003. The neuropsychology of heading and head trauma in Association Football (soccer): a review. Neuropsychol Rev, vol. 13(3), 153-179. link> doi>
  • Stephens R and Sreenivasan B. 2003. Analysis of substitution test performance using eye movement and video data (vol 9, pg 181, 2002). APPLIED NEUROPSYCHOLOGY, vol. 10(4), 260. link>
  • Stephens R and Sreenivasan B. 2002. Analysis of substitution test performance using eye movement and video data. Appl Neuropsychol, vol. 9(3), 179-182. link> doi>
  • Stephens R. 2001. Feasibility of the use of eye movement data in the analysis of neurobehavioral test performance. Environmental Research. doi>
  • STEPHENS R and Barker P. 1998. Role of human neurobehavioural tests in regulatory activity on chemicals. OCCUPATIONAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL MEDICINE, vol. 55(3), 210-214. doi>
  • Stephens R and Barker P. 1998. Role of human neurobehavioural tests in regulatory activity on chemicals. Occupational and Environmental Medicine, vol. 55(3), 210-214.
  • STEPHENS R, Spurgeon A, Berry H. Organophosphates: The relationship between chronic and acute exposure effects. NEUROTOXICOLOGY AND TERATOLOGY, vol. 18(4), 449-453. doi>
  • Beach JR, Spurgeon A, Stephens R, et al. 1996. Abnormalities on neurological examination among sheep farmers exposed to organophosphorous pesticides. OCCUPATIONAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL MEDICINE, vol. 53(8), 520-525. doi>
  • STEPHENS R, Spurgeon A, Calvert IA, et al. 1995. NEUROPSYCHOLOGICAL EFFECTS OF LONG-TERM EXPOSURE TO ORGANOPHOSPHATES IN SHEEP DIP. The Lancet, vol. 345(8958), 1135-1139. doi>

Chapters

  • Nte S and Stephens R. 2008. Videogame aesthetics and e-learning: a retro-looking computer game to explain the normal distribution in statistics teaching. In Proceedings of the 2nd European Conference on Games-Based Learning. Connolly T and Stansfield M (Eds.). Reading: Academic Conferences Ltd..
  • Rutherford A and Stephens R. 2007. Does football heading impair cognitive function?. In Cognitive Disorders Research Trends. Sentowski HC (Ed.). New York: Nova Science Pub Incorporated.
  • Stephens R and Rutherford A. 2007. Expert Commentary: Does football heading impair cognitive function?. In Cognitive Disorders Research Trends. Sentowski HC (Ed.). Nova Science Pub Incorporated.

Other

  • Verster JC, Alford C, Bervoets AC, de Klerk S, Grange JA, Hogewoning A, Jones K, Kruisselbrink DL, Owen L, Piasecki TM, Raasveld SJ, Royle S, Slutske WS, Smith GS, Stephens R, Alcohol Hangover Research Group. 2013. Hangover research needs: proceedings of the 5th Alcohol Hangover Research Group meeting. Curr Drug Abuse Rev (vol. 6, pp. 245-251). link> doi>
  • Owen L, Parry E, Grange J, Stephens R. 2013. HEALTH CONSEQUENCES OF THE ALCOHOL HANGOVER PRELIMINARY FINDINGS FROM AN EU 7TH FRAMEWORK MARIE CURIE RESEARCH FELLOWSHIP. ALCOHOLISM-CLINICAL AND EXPERIMENTAL RESEARCH (vol. 37, p. 86A). link>
  • Read S and Stephens R. 2010. Bereavement and people with ID: developing a tool to support practice. JOURNAL OF APPLIED RESEARCH IN INTELLECTUAL DISABILITIES (vol. 23, p. 416). link>
  • Ling J, Stephens R, Hodges K. 2008. Hydration and cognitive performance of secondary school children. INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF PSYCHOLOGY (vol. 43, p. 502). link>
  • Ling J, Minos K, Stephens R. 2008. Cognitive effects of creatine ethyl ester supplementation. INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF PSYCHOLOGY (vol. 43, p. 255). link> doi>
  • Nte S and Stephens R. 2008. Videogame Aesthetics and e-Learning: A Retro-looking Computer Game to Explain the Normal Distribution in Statistics Teaching. 2ND EUROPEAN CONFERENCE ON GAMES BASED LEARNING (pp. 341-348). link>
  • Stone MJ, Woolmore JA, Jenkinson P, Stephens R, Mihalova T, Langdon D, Fryer AA, Strange R, Hawkins CP. 2007. Cognitive impairment and polymorphisms of cathepsin D in multiple sclerosis. JOURNAL OF NEUROLOGY (vol. 254, p. 163). link>
  • Woolmore JA, Jenkinson PM, Stephens R, Weatherby SJ, Payton A, Fryer AA, Strange RS, Ollier WER, Jones PW, Langdon D, Hawkins CP. 2005. Neuropsychological outcome and apolipoprotein E epsilon 4 polymorphism in multiple sclerosis. JOURNAL OF NEUROLOGY (vol. 252, p. 131). link>
  • Woolmore JA, Ike A, Jenkinson RM, Stephens R, Holley S, Fryer AA, Strange RS, Jones RW, Langdon D, Hawkins CP. 2005. Neuropsychological outcome and cannabinoid receptor 1 polymorphism in multiple sclerosis. JOURNAL OF NEUROLOGY (vol. 252, p. 66). link>
  • Woolmore JA, Jenkinson PM, Stephens R, Weatherby SJ, Fryer AA, Strange RC, Payton A, Ollier W, Jones P, Langdon D, Hawkins CP, Keele MS. 2005. Neuropsychological outcome and APOE polymorphism in multiple sclerosis. JOURNAL OF NEUROLOGY NEUROSURGERY AND PSYCHIATRY (vol. 76, p. 158). link>
  • Woolmore JA, Jenkinson P, Stephens R, Payton A, Weatherby SJ, Strange RC, Fryer AA, Ollier W, Jones PW, Langdon DW, Hawkins CR. 2004. Neuropsychological outcome and APOE polymorphism in multiple sclerosis. MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS (vol. 10, pp. S207-S208). link>
  • Clapp S, Sreenivason B, Stephens R. 2001. The use of eye movement data in the analysis of neurobehavioural test performance.
  • Stephens R, Rutherford A, Potter D. 2001. Heading the ball in amateur adult football (soccer) and neuro-psychological impairment. Some preliminary results. Proceedings of the British Psychological Society.
  • Stephens R, Rutherford A, Potter D. 2001. Is heading the ball in football a cause of neuropsychological impairment in amateur adult players?. Proceedings of the British Psychological Society.
  • Stephens R. 2000. Analysis of WAIS-R Digit Symbol performance using eye movement data.
  • Stephens R. 2000. No evidence of Chronic sub-clinical neurobehavioral effects in orchard sprayers in England with long-term, low-level organophosphate exposure: Preliminary results of a cross-sectional study.