Department of Psychology

Professor Alan Pickering

Position held:
Professor of Psychology and (from 1 January 2015) Interim Head of Department

Phone:
+44 (0)20 7919 7894

Fax:
+44 (0)20 7919 7873

Email:
a.pickering (@gold.ac.uk)

Website:
http://homepages.gold.ac.uk/aphome/

Address:
Room 314 Whitehead Building,
Department of Psychology,
Goldsmiths, University of London,
New Cross, SE14 6NW

Office hours:
by appointment

Summary of research

  • Biological bases of personality traits and their influence on cognitive and motivational processes;
  • related psychopathologies (anxiety, addiction, schizophrenia);
  • dopamine and behaviour;
  • computational models of learning and cognitive control;
  • statistical methods in psychology.

Academic qualifications

 BA PhD

Teaching

Advanced Statistics (3rd year BSc Psychology; MSc Occupational Psychology; MRes Reseach Methods in Psychology;  MPhil/PhD Research training).

 

Areas of supervision

Practical projects for BSc and MSc students are those which seek to investigate how aspects of motivated learning (eg under the control of small rewards and/or punishments), cognitive control, or probabilistic reasoning, relate to biologically-based personality traits (such as extraversion, impulsivity, anxiety, schizotypy) and/or indirect markers of brain dopaminergic functioning (e.g. eyeblink rate). I am particularly interested in students who want to explore how the ideas emerging from formal computational models might be tested in these studies although students need not have any programming skills in order to do these projects.

For PhDs there is the opportunity to explore a wider range of convergent methods to address these research topics: EEG and neuroimaging; the influence of specific genotypes; looking at behaviours in relevant psychopathologies (addiction, schizophrenia).

I am particularly keen on PhD students with computational skills and/or interest in modelling; such students will extend the computational models of the processes of interest and test their predictions. Prior programming experience is an advantage here but is not necessary as training can be provided.

Professional activities

Committee Member of the British Society for the Psychology of Individual Differences (BSPID)

BSPID website: http://www.bspid.org.uk

Member Memory Disorders Research Society

Assistant Editor, Addiction

Keynote lectures

  • Pickering, A.D. (September, 2011). The psychobiology of major personality dimensions: From genetics to computational models. Opening keynote address to the 1st Meeting of the Latin-American Association for the Investigation of Individual Differences. Castellon, Spain.
  • Pickering, A.D. (July, 2011). Recruiting neuroscience to sharpen personality research. Keynote address presented at the 2nd Annual Conference of the British Society for the Psychology of Individual Differences. London.

Conferences

(*presenting author)

Pickering, A.D.*, Dawkins, L., & Powell, J.H. (July, 2011). Personality makes the difference: The value of including individual differences variables when studying the psychopharmacology of addiction. Paper presented at the 15th Biennial Meeting of the International Society for the Study of Individual Differences (ISSID). London.

Pickering, A.D.* & Tharp, I.J. (April, 2010). Understanding factors influencing the choices made by impulsive sensation seeking people: A cognitive neuroscience approach. Paper presented at the inaugural meeting of the British Society for the Psychology of Individual Differences, Edinburgh.

Pickering, A. D.*, Tharp, I.J., & Pesola, F. (July, 2009). Why Complex Biocognitive Theories of Personality Need to Adopt Formal Modelling Approaches. Paper presented at the 14th Biennial Meeting of the International Society for the Study of Individual Differences (ISSID), Chicago, USA. (and co-chaired the Symposium of which this paper was part.)

Tharp I. J.*, Pickering A. D., Smillie L. D., & Cooper A. J. (July, 2009). Individual differences in cognitive control during attentional and rule-based set-shifting. Paper presented at the 14th Biennial Meeting of the International Society for the Study of Individual Differences (ISSID), Chicago, USA.

Pickering, A.*, Pesola, F., & Tharp, I. (July, 2008). Building bottom-up cognitive neuroscience models of personality. Paper presented at the 14th European Conference on Personality. Tartu, Estonia.

Pickering, A* & Pesola, F. (April, 2008) Reward prediction errors and reinforcement sensitivity theory: A neurobiological account. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the British Psychological Association, Dublin.

Research interests

My research is focused on the way certain brain systems (particularly those which are modulated by the neurotransmitter dopamine) deliver behaviours such as learning (particularly under reward or punishment) and cognitive control. These interests are investigated via convergent methods: by exploring how biologically-based personality traits (such as extraversion, impulsivity, anxiety, schizotypy) may reflect or influence these processes; by investigating relevant behaviours in individuals with conditions such as schizophrenia and addiction; by neuroimaging to study the brain location and timing of the cognitive and motivational components of interest; and by creating formal computational models that will ultimately allow better tests of the hypotheses proposed.

Selected publications



Content last modified: 17 Dec 2014

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