Dawn M. Sweet

Senior Lecturer [PSYCH]


Office:W153 Lagomarcino
901 Stange Rd
Ames IA
Links: Website

Courses I teach

• LAS 103 Honors Seminar on Nonverbal Communication, Hostile Intent, and Deception
• ComSt 203 Introduction to Research Methods
• ComSt 218 Conflict Management
• ComSt 325 Nonverbal Communication
• ComSt 404 Senior Research Seminar
• ComSt 450 Special Topics: Nonverbal Communication
• VCS 314 Veterinarian and Society: Communication in Veterinary Medicine


PhD Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey – Communication Studies
MA The College of New Jersey
BA Kean College of New Jersey

About my teaching

My approach to teaching is anchored by the belief that learning is a collaborative endeavor that requires the active participation of both the instructor and the students. Learning is a dynamic process that requires adopting a variety of teaching strategies to maximize student learning. My classes are organized around discussions and activities that promote critical thinking, self-awareness, and problem-solving. My goal is to promote learning that is not only purposeful but enduring.

Research areas

The core of my research focuses on nonverbal communication and behavior in the contexts of threat assessment and detection, violence and aggression, and de-escalation strategies in high-risk/high-consequence emotionally charged situations. I am also interested in how emotional states manifest through visible behaviors and how these behaviors influence interaction outcomes.

Nonverbal Communication; Threat Detection; Mindful Communication Practices; Emotion

Recent publications

Recent Publications

• Sweet, D.M., Meissner, C.A., & Atkinson, D.J. (2017). Assessing law enforcement performance in behavior-based threat detection tasks involving a concealed weapon or device. Law and Human Behavior, (in press).

• Sweet, D.M. & Burzette. R. Law Enforcement Perceptions of Nonverbal Behaviors Associated with Imminent Interpersonal Violence. Criminal Justice & Behavior, under review, R&R)

• Aditya, S., Baral, C., Vo, N. H., Lee, J., Ye, J., Naung, Z., Sweet, D.M., & Inclezan, D. (2015). Recognizing social constructs from textual conversation. In NAACL HLT 2015 - 2015 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies, Proceedings of the Conference (pp. 1293-1298). Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL).

• Sweet, D.M. (2009). Nonverbal cues to deception (Embargoed).

• Sweet, D.M., & Pazian, M.P. (2009). The Body Action Coding System (BACS): A behavior-based approach for assessing hostile intent (Embargoed).

• Sweet, et al. (2009). Is it what you say? Detecting deception in responses to speculative questions. (Embargoed).

• Sweet, D.M. et al. (2008). Posture and deception (Embargoed).

Under Review

• Gentile, D., Sweet, D.M., He, L., & Lewis, A. Caring for others cares for the self: An experimental test of brief downward social comparison, loving-kindness, and interconnectedness contemplations (Psychological Science)

• Sweet, D.M., Gentile, D., & He, L. Communication Apprehension and well-being in veterinary medical students: Implications for practice. Paper accepted by the National Communication Association, Nov 2017 Dallas, TX (paper to be submitted to Journal of Health Communication or Communication Research)

• Plante, C., Sweet, D.M., & Groves, C. A Silver Lining: Violent Media, Perceptions of a Dangerous World, and Campus Safety Intervention (under review Journal of Threat Assessment and Management)

• Sweet, D.M., He, L., & Gentile, D. Communication Apprehension and well-being in veterinary medical students: Implications for practice (Journal of Health Communication)

• Sweet, D.M., Vogel, D.L., & Bitman, R. An analysis of nonverbal behavior in a non-clinical population: Gesture production in mildly depressed and non-depressed college students during a screening interview. (Journal of Affective Disorders)

Manuscripts in Preparation

1. Sweet, D.M., & Meissner, C.A. A second look at nonverbal communication and deception: Are we throwing the baby out with the bathwater(Applied Cognitive Psychology or Current Directions in Psychological Science)

2. Sweet, D.M., & Meissner, C.A., & ? Behavior-based threat detection: A Lens model approach

3. Sweet, D.M., Gentile, D., & Stone, W. The development of a mindful communication scale: The good, the bad, the problematic

4. Gentile, D., Sweet, D.M., He, L. Mindfulness and Consumerism: The Connection to Buying Behavior and Life Satisfaction. (Journal TBD)

5. Sweet, D.M., VanderBoon, L. Tactical kindness: Communication-based strategies for de-escalating emotionally charged, high risk situations. (Communication Research) 

White Papers

• Sweet, D.M., Morris, A., & Vogel, D.L. (2012). Identifying Patterns of Behavior: Recognizing Intention through Visible Behavior in High-Risk/High-Consequence Environments (prepared for Iowa State Proof of Concept
Presidential Initiative, invited for full proposal)

• Sweet, D.M., & Vogel, D.L. (2012). Mitigating errors in depression screening and diagnosis: Facial affect, body language, and language as communicative markers for depression (prepared for Iowa State Proof of
Concept Presidential Initiative, not invited for full proposal)

• Sweet, D.M., & Kogi, S. (2012). Body language as cues to aggressive behavior (prepared for IARPA)

• Sweet, D.M. (2011). Identifying patterns of behavior: Recognizing intention through visible behavior in high-risk/high consequence environments. (prepared for DARPA)

• Sweet, D.M., & Pazian, M. (2011). Hostile intent: identifying behavioral patterns of threat. (prepared for TSA)

• Sweet, D.M. (2009). Identifying behaviors linked to explosive threat emplacement. (Prepared for Naval Research Laboratory)

Current research

My current research program focuses on behavior-based threat detection, nonverbal cues associated with imminent interpersonal violence and aggression, and mindful communication practices. A recent study investigated law enforcement officers' and naive controls' ability to accurately detect the presence of a concealed weapon or device. The follow-up study investigates the predictive utility of the behavioral signals officers believed to be associated with attempts to conceal a weapon or device. In addition to investigating concealment behavioral signals, I am interested in the nonverbal behaviors that may reliably signal imminent interpersonal violence and aggression and individuals' perceptions and judgments of these behaviors. The third prong of my research program examines mindfulness and mindful communication as they relate to interaction outcomes and well-being.

External Funding

• Motorola Solutions Foundation. Project Titled: Recognizing Hostile Intent Through Nonverbal Communication in Emotionally-Charged High-Risk/High-Consequence Situations. Role: PI. Award: $11,000. [Oct 1, 2013
– September 30, 2014]

• Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) Project titled: Integrating machine learning and knowledge representation for discovery of social goals of groups and group members from their language
usage. Role: participant PI: Chitta Baral, Arizona State University. (Award: $1,420,173)

• Naval Research Laboratory, Contract # N00173-09-C-2038 , Jan 2010 – March 2011
Goals: The goal of this research was to develop a conceptual and theoretical framework for frame by frame coding actions located in the body that are presumably linked with deception. (AWARD: $100,000)