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Dr Ian Sneddon

Photo of Ian Sneddon

Senior Lecturer



Room 0G.502, David Keir Building
School of Psychology
Queen's University Belfast
Belfast, BT7 1NN
Northern Ireland, UK


+44 (0)28 9097 4385


Educated in Scotland, I studied Psychology at St Andrews University during the 1970s. As an undergraduate I worked closely with David Milner (now at Durham) and Mel Goodale (now at Western Ontario). I stayed at St Andrews to complete a PhD under the supervision of Robert Prescott studying the social behaviour and ecology of a population of wild rabbits on the Isle of May several miles off the Fife coast. In 1977 I took up a lecturing post at Queen's University of Belfast and in the 1990s was promoted to senior lecturer.

School of Psychology Administrative Roles

  • Third Year Tutor
  • Chair of School of Psychology Research Ethics Committee


  • PSY1001 Introductory Psychology 1
  • PSY2061 Biological Psychology
  • PSY2059 Research Methods and Group Project
  • PSY3001 Thesis
  • PSY3075 Animal Behaviour


Member of the EPIC (Emotion, Perception, and Individual Characteristics) Research Cluster

  • The expression and perception of emotion
  • Animal welfare

Research Interests

During the 1980's my research interests continued to revolve around animal behaviour, but my focus slowly moved toward the application of our knowledge to the problem of animal welfare.

Animal welfare

For over 20 years I worked with colleagues at the Agricultural Research Institute (ARINI) at Hillsborough, Co. Down on the welfare of farm animals. Research collaborations with Norman Walker, Violet Beattie and Niamh O'Connoll covered a range of welfare issues primarily on pigs held in intensive housing conditions. This work has led to recommendations for animal husbandry practice and, given the current public concern over animal welfare, the research has important commercial implications for agriculture. Important recent EC animal welfare legislation has incorporated some of the results of this research. (European Commission Pig Welfare Directive 2001/93/EC came into force in January 2003 and requires that pigs must have "...permanent access to a sufficient quantity of material to enable proper investigation and manipulation activities, such as straw, hay, wood, sawdust, mushroom compost, peat.").

I continued to widen my research on farm animal welfare, supervising PhD projects on dairy cow welfare and on horses, but over the last few years I have become increasingly interested in, and involved with, research into human expression of emotion.

Expression and Perception of Emotion.

The observational skills developed over many years of animal research have application in the study of human non-verbal behaviour. Most research on the facial expressions linked to emotion have been conducted using static photographs of posed (and arguably stereotypical) facial expressions. In 2009 several members of our research group were trained by Erika Rosenberg in the Facial Action Coding System and became certified FACS coders. Margaret McRorie and myself have collected a large number examples of more spontaneous emotional expression (available to emotion researchers as the Belfast Induced Emotion Database at Using a computer based continuous emotional tracing tool called 'Feeltrace' (in its latest incarnation, called 'GTrace') developed by Prof. Roddy Cowie here in QUB Psychology, we have been investigating.......

  • How people interpret these more natural emotional signals. 
  • Whether people can tell acted from natural signals.
  • To what extent individual, gender and cultural differences affect emotion expression and perception.

Alongside this research on human faces I have been involved in a series of projects( e.g. HUMAINE, SEMAINE) investigating aspects of affective computing, where my involvement has principally been in developing databases that can be used as models for developing affective capabilities in emotion oriented systems and in advising on ethical issues related to this type of research

Recent Publications - journal articles, chapters in books, and papers published in proceedings of international conferences click here