Timothy Daniel Sweeny

Associate Professor

What I do

I study visual perception. My goal is to understand how neural and cognitive mechanisms shape what people see, how perceptual processes guide social and emotional behaviors, and how consciousness works. I collaborate with clinical psychologists to examine how visual perception contributes to the experience of people with anxiety and autism spectrum disorder.


Vision, Perception, cognitive neuroscience, Emotion

Professional Biography

Tim Sweeny is an Associate Professor in the Psychology Department. He is the head of the Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience Program, and is an Associate Editor at the journal Emotion. He received his PhD from Northwestern University in 2010 and spent three years as a post-doctoral research at the University of California, Berkeley, before starting the Visual Perception, Emotion, and Cognition Lab at DU in 2013. Scholarship, teaching, and mentorship are equal part of Dr. Sweeny's identity at DU, reflected in his research and courses which examine how neural mechanisms shape what people see, how basic perceptual processes guide social and emotional behaviors, and how visual processes operate among clinical populations. In his courses, undergraduate and graduate students become both consumers and creators of research, and use visual perception as a launching point to connect with many disciplines across Psychology, Computer Science, and Engineering. For example, he and a team of student collaborators work with Dr. Mohammad Mahoor in the Ritchie School of Engineering and Computer Science to explore how children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder see and understand attention and gaze on human and robotic faces. Undergraduate and graduate students in the VPEC Lab take their research outside the lab to connect with scientifically-underserved students around Denver via the Vision Science Outreach Program, which has interacted with over 2,600 K-12 students since 2013.


  • Ph.D., Psychology, Northwestern University, 2010

Featured Publications

Mihalache, D., Feng, H., Askari, F., Sokol-Hessner, P., Moody, E., Mahoor, M., & Sweeny, T. D. (2020). Perceiving gaze from head and eye rotations: An integrative challenge for children and adults. Developmental Science.
Lamer, S., Michael, D., & Max, W. (2018). Rapid visual perception of interracial crowds: Racial category learning from emotional segregation. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 147, 683-701.
Elias, E., Michael, D., & Sweeny, T. D. (2016). Ensemble perception of dynamic emotional groups. Psychological Science, 28(2).