School of Psychology

Staff Profiles

Professor Gwyneth Doherty-Sneddon

Head of School



Roles and Responsibilities

Head of School


BSc Hons Psychology University of Glasgow (1985-1989)

PhD Psychology University of Glasgow (1989-1995)

Previous Positions


Researcher ESRC funded Human Communication Research Centre (University of Glasgow; University of Edinburgh (1989-1994).

Lecturer-Professor in Psychology, University of Stirling (1994-2010)

Associate Dean (Research and Innovation) Northumbria University, 2010-2014 





Gwyneth has researched the visuo-spatial processing links between visual social cues and visual non-social information (as in mental imaging); how children adapt to different communication media (e.g. face-to-face versus live video links); and children's patterns of gaze as indicators of internal cognitive states like thinking and concentration. Her most recent work has investigated gaze aversion as cognitive load management in people with neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism and Williams syndrome. She has found that during difficult cognitive activity, for example remembering information, thinking of an answer to a question, planning what we are going to say, and speaking, we often close our eyes, look up at the sky, or look away from the person we are in conversation with. Gwyneth has led a 15 year research programme to investigate how and why children (typically and atypically developing) use gaze aversion when interacting with others. Amongst the results of this work are:  that while face-to-face signals, like eye gaze and facial expressions, are often beneficial to communication, they carry a mental load which children and adults avoid under certain conditions, by averting their gaze. Of particular practical relevance is the finding that young children can be trained to use gaze aversion to optimise their problem solving performance. Children's patterns of gaze yield important clues to their thinking, concentration and mental processing that are useful to parents, teachers, psychologists and anyone engaged in assessing children's knowledge and development.


She has disseminated her research within sectors including the police, social workers, teachers, education services, primary health care workers, and counsellors. Gwyneth has contributed to national level training of police and child protection officers. Her work is influencing professional practice and is cited in the Home Office guidelines Achieving Best Evidence in Criminal Proceedings.