Our Research

Peter Hepper

Phone: +44 (0)28 9097 4230, +44 (0)28 9097 4196

For media contact email
or call +44(0)2890 973091.

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Research Interests

My research interests are concentrated around the following general themes:

Behavioural development and health

Prenatal development of human fetal behaviour: The use of fetal behaviour as a diagnostic tool to detect handicap; quantitative analysis of the development of behaviour and behavioural states in the human fetus; learning and sensory development in the human fetus and its relation to the developing CNS; assessing neural effects of environmental teratogens, including drugs of abuse, in utero; maternal effects on the developing fetus; fetal behaviour in fetuses with neural abnormalities.

Comparative behavioural development: comparison of embryonic and neonatal neurobehavioural development in amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals to explore common and unique aspects of early development; fetal development in the dog and fading puppy syndrome as a model for SIDS in human infants; fetal and neonatal development in the sheep and its relation to neonatal mortalilty and vigour.

Animal behaviour

Kin recognition: the development and mechanisms of kin recognition; the influence of kinship on the social behaviour of animals; developmental mechanisms of kin recognition. Olfaction: olfactory detection in dogs; primate olfaction; comparative olfactory acuity. Animal Welfare: study of behaviour in zoo animals, in particular behaviour in endangered species undergoing breeding programmes for species survival; enrichment programmes for 'captive' animals; welfare in captive reptiles; welfare in rescue shelter animals.

Psychosocial outcome of facial disfigurement

The effect of cleft lip and palate on health, psychological and social well-being; features of dentition and mandible growth and their role in determining attractiveness; psychological impact of orthodontic surgery; factors determining patient willingness to undergo orthodontic surgery.


I currently teach:

PSY1006 Everday Psychology - Criminal Profiling, Touch, Threat assessment, School shootings

PSY2062 - Interviewing

PSY3080 - Psychology of Serial Killers


I teach Governance, Ethics at Postgraduate level.


I undertook a BSc(Hons) in Psychology at the University of Exeter and then moved to the psychology department in Durham to complete a PhD on "Kin Recognition in the Rat" supervised by Prof MJ Morgan. I then came to Queen’s Belfast and was appointed as Professor in 1993. I am a chartered psychologist and Fellow of the British Psychological Society. In 2007 I was awarded The Thomas R. Verny Award for Outstanding Contributions to Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health by the American Association of Pre- and Perinatal Psychology & Health.

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Frequent Journals

  • Applied Animal Behaviour Science

    ISSNs: 0168-1591, 0168-1591


    Scopus rating (2015): SJR 0.975 SNIP 1.171


  • Animal Behaviour

    ISSNs: 0003-3472, 0003-3472

    Additional searchable ISSN (Electronic): 1095-8282

    Academic Press Inc.

    Scopus rating (2015): SJR 1.907 SNIP 1.221


  • Physiology & Behavior

    ISSNs: 0031-9384

    Additional searchable ISSN (Electronic): 1873-507X

    Elsevier Inc.

    Scopus rating (2015): SJR 1.245 SNIP 0.961


  • The European Journal of Orthodontics

    ISSNs: 0141-5387

    Additional searchable ISSN (Electronic): 1460-2210

    Oxford University Press

    Scopus rating (2015): SJR 1.09 SNIP 1.296


  • Lancet

    ISSNs: 0140-6736

    Additional searchable ISSN (Electronic): 1474-547X

    Elsevier Limited

    Scopus rating (2015): SJR 14.638 SNIP 14.801


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Contribution to conference papers, events and activities

ID: 11604