Professor of Psychology and Academic Director Goldsmiths / Queen Mary Doctoral Training Centre
+44 (0)20 7919 7894
+44 (0)20 7919 7873
Room 314 Whitehead Building,
Department of Psychology,
Goldsmiths, University of London,
New Cross, SE14 6NW
I am a neuropsychologist who is interested in many research areas: the biological and cognitive correlates of personality; statistics; neural networks and other formal models; cognitive control; learning esp. category learning; reward and reward prediction; memory; neuropsychology; neuropsychiatry.
Advanced Statistics (3rd year BSc Psychology; MSc Occupational Psychology; MSc Reseach Methods in Psychology; MPhil/PhD Research training.
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
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.
Although much of my current research concerns the cognitive and biological bases of personality, I approach this from a neuropsychological perspective: I use personality and individual differences variables as means for helping me to understand the neuropsychological basis of the processes involved in learning to predict events (esp. rewards), memory, control of attention and response selection. I am particularly interested in the role of the hippocampal system in episodic memory and the role of basal ganglia structures (eg, striatum) in various processes: stimulus-response habit learning; selective attention/cognitive control; and motivation. In these latter topics I am also trying to understand the role that the neurotransmitter dopamine plays in modulating the function of basal ganglia, hippocampal and cortical structures.
In pursuit of these topics I have tried to use a range of converging methodologies: as already noted I use studies exploring the effects of biologically-based personality dimensions on these processes. I also use neural network and other formal modelling; studies with neuropsychological and psychiatric subject groups; psychopharmacology; plus neuroimaging (ERPs, fMRI etc).
Current major projects (aspects of these are all suitable for PhD research projects):
Project 1: Aims to construct a biologically-constrained neural network model capable of SR learning under reward. The mode, which conforms to an actor-critic reinforcement learning architetcure,l incorporates plastic corticostriatal pathways interacting with reward prediction errors signals provided by ascending dopaminergic neuromodulatory inputs. The model is being tested against category learning and task-switching data in the first instance and is being used as a tool for understanding the possible influences of dopamine-related personality traits on behaviour (see below). The model also explores the interaction of this reward-learning system with top-down control of behaviour through externally provided cues or internally-generated hypotheses (aka "rules").
Project 2: Attempts to find specific cognitive correlates of major biological personality dimensions. The dimensions of impulsive antisocial sensation seeking, extraversion, and schizotypal personality are all moderately interrelated, and some or all of these dimensions may be related to variations in dopaminergic neurotransmission. Each dimension has been proposed to relate to various learning, motivational and/or attentional/control processes. The project aims to develop tasks which attempt to separate these processes, and has begun to find clear dissociations in the patterns of personality-task correlations. These relationships are being modelled with the neural networks and formal models used in other project 1.
Project 3: This projects investigates the biological basis of personality. Specifically, if tehre are broad biological systems, which vary in functioning across individuals, then how may the properties of the underlying systems be expressed as individual differences in behaviour. To do this we are developing a simple formal model of the underlying systems with stable inter-individual functional variation. The project poses the following question: if self-reported mood or personality questionnaire responses were driven by such systems then what would the factor structure of such responses look like? Simulation studies under different assumptions has begun to reveal different psychometric outcomes. In the future we will test the model's predictrions against questionnaire and other behavioural data from samples of healthy respondents.
Goldsmiths, University of London, New Cross, London, SE14 6NW, UK
Telephone: + 44 (0)20 7919 7171
Goldsmiths has charitable status