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Professor Robert J Snowden BSc York PhD Cantab

Professor Robert J Snowden

BSc York PhD Cantab


School of Psychology

+44 (0)29 2087 4937
5.14, Tower Building, 70 Park Place, Cardiff, CF10 3AT
Media commentator
Available for postgraduate supervision


My interests are in serious offending. I look at methods of understanding why this occurs at the cognitive and behavioural level (what are the thoughts and motivations behind these action) as well as the biological underpinnings of these behaviours.

My research mainly covers violence (including murder) and sexual violence (rape, child molestation, paedophilia, etc). I therefore have interests in concepts such as psychopaths, personality disorders and mental illness as it relates to offending and violence.

I run courses for professionals on risk assessment of violence in offenders and mentally disordered offenders.

I have an interest in human sexuality and sexual interests which include both normal interests (heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, etc) as well as deviant sexual interests (eg, paedophilia and other paraphilias).

I also conduct research of vision and visual perception and am the author of the textbook "Basic Vision" (OUP).


Undergraduate education

York University – BSc Psychology (1985)

Postgraduate education

Cambridge University – PhD Experimental Psychology (1989)


Post-doctoral research Fellow Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Professional memberships

  • Society for the Scientific Study of Psychopathy.

Academic positions

  • Post-doctoral research fellow, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Speaking engagements

Interviews with 20/20 (American TV) and several programmes in UK. Around 100 radio interviews.





























Level 1 - teach on Psychological Research.

Level 2 -Teach on Perception, Attention and Action. I give  6 lectures on visual perception.

Level 3 - module coordinato for Forensic Psychology: Violence and crime. I teach the whole module (8 lectures, 3 workshops).

Research topics and related papers

Forensic and Clinical Psychology

My laboratory investigates the origins and management of severe problem behaviours. These include violence to others, sexual offending, suicide and self-harming behaviours, and trauma..

On-going projects include:

  • WARRN - risk assessment for mental health services across Wales
  • Prediction of suicide using the RoSP (Risk of Suicide Protocol)
  • Self-esteem and aggression
  • Emotional processing in personality disorders
  • Implicit measurement of sex-related cognitions in normal populations (hetero and homosexual men and women)
  • Impulsivity, psychopathy and personality disorders
  • Perceptual sensitivity, strength of the nervous system and psychopathology
  • Use of implicit measures
  • Resilience training and mental health
  • Reducing mental health-related stigma in schoolchildren
  • Improving mental health in the workplac



Research collaborators

All the work in the domain of Forensic and Clinical Psychology is done in collaboration with a Chartered Clinical and Forsensic psychologist (Professor Nicola Gray, Swansea University). We currently have projects with Action for Children, the DVLA, and with Gwent Police Force. We have a long-standing colloaboration with colleagues at the Portman CLinic (london) and at HMP Grendon (Oxfordshire).


Postgraduate research interests

My research aims to help understand, predict and manage patients with severe behavioural problems
due to mental health issues (psychopathy, personality disorders, mental illness).

The major strands of my work are:

  • Prediction and prevention of future violence and sexual violence to others
  • Prediction and prevention of suicide and self-harm
  • Understanding motivations and cognitions underpinning severe behavioural problems through
    the use of explicit and implicit methodologies
  • Evaluation of training programmes designed to reduce risk, trauma, and stigmatism

The research is conducted in collaboration with a clinical and forensic psychologist (Professor Nicola Gray), and has strong links to secure units, local hospitals, prisons and, community services. We are also working with professional bodies such as the police force, the ambulance service, and the DVLA.

Motion perception: including the perception of speed, and how contrast effects (e.g. fog) and light interact to alter our perception of speed; The effects of old age on the visual system; Visual processes in various conditions (glaucoma, schizophrenia, Alzheimer's disease).

If you are interested in applying for a PhD, or for further information  regarding my postgraduate research, please contact me directly (contact details available on the 'Overview' page), or submit a formal application.

Current students

Paula Riella - The effects of resilience training on front-line police officers.

Jamie Knowles (at Swansea University) - The Risk of Suicide Protocol (RoSP): Its usage in accident and emergancy settings

NIcola SImkiss (at Swansea University) - The Guide Cymru: Testing the efficacy in a stigma reduction programme for schoolchildren.  A randomised control trial across Wales.

Alys Docksey (at Swansea University) - Prevail: A programme to reduce days lost due to mental health problens. A randomised control trial of DVLA staff.

Past projects

  • Peter T. Brawn - Selectively attending to colour and objects. PhD Cardiff University (1998)
  • Mark R. Blakemore - Factors involved in the perception of motion. PhD Cardiff University (1998)
  • Melanie C. Doyle - Facilitatory effects of response-irrelevant sound upon the acquisition of visual targets. PhD Cardiff University (1999)
  • Jennifer Willey - Exploration of the role of attentional processing in the positive symptoms of schizophrenia and schizotypy. PhD Cardiff University (2001)
  • Emma Kavanagh - The perception of motion in old age.  PhD Cardiff University (2003)
  • Jan Wichter - Supra- and subliminal priming  of implicit attitudes – a tool for detecting deviant personalities. MPhil Cardiff University (2004)
  • Jennifer Smith - Differentiating criminal personalities by use of implicit attitude tests. MPhil Cardiff University (2005)
  • Lisa Evans - Cognitive inhibition in schizophrenia and schizotypy. PhD Cardiff University (2005)
  • Anthony Brown - Implicit measurements of child-sex associations in paedophiles. PhD Cardiff University (2006)
  • Suzanne Fitzgerald - Risk assessment in the learning disabled. PhD Cardiff University (2008)
  • Elizabeth Andrew - Command hallucinations: compliance and dangerousness. PhD Cardiff University (2010)
  • Sonja Copestake - Emotional processing and psychopathy.PhD Cardiff University (2011)
  • Rebecca Pepper - Attachment, self-esteem and cognitive distortions in child molesters.PhD Cardiff University (2013)
  • Katie O'Farrel - Emotional processing and psychopathic personality disorder in a sample of adult male offenders assessed using behavioural, self-report and psychophysiological measures PhD Cardiff University (2015)
  • Suzanne Binti Ahmed -Self-esteem and aggression: the relationships between explicit-implicit self-esteem, narcissism, and reactive-proactive aggression. PhD Cardiff University (2015)
  • Daniel Burley - In the eye of the beholder: psychopathy and pupil response to emotion PhD Cardiff University (2016)
  • Aimee McKinnon - Assessing physiological sensitivity in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder PhD Cardiff University (2017)