I approach the study of learning and behavior change from a functional-cognitive perspective. In this line of work I examine how antecedents in the environment ‘trigger’ thoughts and behavior,

and how consequences can be used to ‘redirect’ that behavior.

This 'behavioral-change' approach has many practical implications and the potential for large-scale societal impact.

This research line has recently led to:

  • A Learning 2.0 perspective that examines how symbolic and relational abilities guide learning in humans.

  • New perspectives and directions in learning, attitudes, emotion, applied psychology, and personality research (from a Functional-Cognitive perspective).

  • Discovery of new learning pathways and a focus on learning at different levels of analysis (e.g., genetic learning).

  • Application of the laws of learning to behavior change.


Van Dessel, P., Hughes, S., & De Houwer, J. (2018). Consequence-Based Approach-Avoidance Training:

A New and Improved Method for Changing Behavior. Psychological Science, 29(12), 1899–1910Link

De Houwer, J., Richetin, J., Hughes, S., & Perugini, M. (in press). On the Assumptions that We Make About the   World Around Us: A Conceptual Framework for Feature Transformation Effects. Collabra: Psychology.

Hughes, S., De Houwer, J., & Perugini, M. (2016). Expanding the Boundaries of Evaluative Learning Research: How Intersecting Regularities Shape Our Likes and Dislikes. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 145, 731-754. Link

De Houwer, J., & Hughes, S. (accepted). The Psychology of Learning: An Introduction from a Functional-Cognitive Perspective. The MIT Press.

Hughes, S., De Houwer, J., & Perugini, P. (2016). The Functional-Cognitive Framework for Psychological Research: Controversies and Resolutions. International Journal of Psychology, 51, 4–14. Link