Professor Alan Pickering

Alan’s research aims to understand the cognitive functions and behaviours that are affected by rewards.

Staff details

Professor Alan Pickering


Emeritus Professor




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In my research I want to understand why certain people learn especially well when they are rewarded, whereas other people do no benefit as much when their behaviour is reinforced by rewards. This may have something to do with the way that particular brain pathways, and receptors on certain brain cells, operate differently in differently people. It seems that these differences might be found on brain pathways and receptors that particularly rely upon a chemical called dopamine. A group of colleagues and students, who work on these and related topics, form the Goldsmiths Affective Science and Personality (GASP) lab. 

On the web


Publications and research outputs

Book Section

Müllensiefen, Daniel; Davies, Christopher; Dossman, Lauri; Hansen, Jon Ludvig and Pickering, Alan. 2013. Implicit and Explicit Effects of Music on Brand Perception in TV Ads. In: C Ringe; K Bronner and R Hirt, eds. Audio Branding Academy Yearbook 2012/2013. Hamburg: Audio Branding Academy, pp. 139-153. ISBN 9783832978785

Ferguson, Eamonn; Chamorro-Premuzic, Tomas; Pickering, Alan and Weiss, Alexander. 2011. Five Into One Doesn’t Go: A Critique of the General Factor of Personality. In: Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic; Sophie von Stumm and Adrian Furnham, eds. The Wiley-Blackwell Handbook of Individual Differences. London: Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 978-1-4443-3438-8

Pickering, Alan. 2008. Formal and computational models of Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory. In: Philip J. Corr, ed. The Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory of Personality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 453-480. ISBN 9780521617369


du Rocher, Andrew R. and Pickering, Alan. 2024. Social interaction anxiety, social phobia, and cognitive control: controlled reactions to facial affect during an emotional face flanker task. Current Psychology, 43(5), pp. 4129-4141. ISSN 1046-1310

Kale, Dimitra; Pickering, Alan and Cooper, Andrew. 2023. Electronic cigarette use among adult smokers: longitudinal associations with smoking and trait impulsivity. Journal of Substance Use, ISSN 1465-9891

Lloyd-Cox, James; Pickering, Alan; Beaty, Roger and Bhattacharya, Joydeep. 2023. Towards Greater Computational Modeling in Neurocognitive Creativity Research. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, ISSN 1931-3896


Warren, Fiona; Preedy-Fayers, Katherine; McGauley, Gill; Pickering, Alan; Geddes, Kingsley Norton John R and Dolan, Bridget. 2003. Review of treatments for severe personality disorder. Other. Home Office Research, Development and Statistics Directorate.

Junger, M; West, R; Train, H; Pickering, Alan; Taylor, E and West, A. 1998. Childhood accidents and their relationship with problem behaviour. Technical Report. Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, London.


Pickering, Alan. 1987. Does amnesia arise from a specific deficit in memory for contextual information. Doctoral thesis, University of Manchester

Research Interests

I have a wide-range of research interests, but currently they focus on the following topics

  • The biological bases of personality traits (such as extraversion, anxiety-neuroticism, impulsivity, schizotypy) and their influence on cognitive and motivational processes.
  • Psychopathologies (anxiety, addiction, schizophrenia) that might be related to the above personality traits and cognitive-motivational processes.
  • Dopamine, reward and behaviour.
  • Computational models of reinforcement, learning and cognitive control.
  • Statistical methods in psychology.


With Dr Andrew Cooper I coordinate the Goldsmiths Affective Science and Personality (GASP) Lab. The lab webpage is forthcoming.

Selected publications (linked to ongoing research)

Pickering, A. D., & Pesola, F. (2014). Modeling dopaminergic and other processes involved in learning from reward prediction error: contributions from an individual differences perspective. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 8, 740.

Kuhn, G., Pickering, A., & Cole, G. G. (2016). “Rare” emotive faces and attentional orienting. Emotion, 16(1), 1–5.

Smillie, L. D., Cooper, A. J., & Pickering, A. D. (2011). Individual differences in reward-prediction-error: extraversion and feedback-related negativity. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 6(5), 646–652.

Smillie, L. D., Cooper, A. J., Proitsi, P., Powell, J. F., & Pickering, A. D. (2010). Variation in DRD2 dopamine gene predicts extraverted personality. Neuroscience Letters, 468(3), 234–237.

Smillie, L. D., Pickering, A. D., & Jackson, C. J. (2006). The new reinforcement sensitivity theory: Implications for personality measurement. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 10, 320–335.

Pickering, A. D., & Gray, J. A. (2001). Dopamine, appetitive reinforcement, and the neuropsychology of human learning : An individual differences approach. In A. Eliasz & A. Angleitner (Eds.), Advances in research on temperament (pp. 113–149). Lengerich, Germany: PABST Science Publishers.