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Cynthia Pickett


  • Ph.D., Social Psychology, Ohio State University, 1999
  • M.S., Social Psychology, Ohio State University, 1996
  • B.A., Psychology, Stanford University, 1994


In addition to her academic appointment in Psychology, Cynthia Pickett is director of UC Davis’ Self and Social Identity Lab, which conducts research within the areas of social identity, intergroup relations, the self, social cognition and self-regulatory processes. Professor Pickett is a member of several professional societies, including the Society of Experimental Social Psychology, the Association for Psychological Science, the International Social Cognition Network, the International Society for Self and Identity, the Society of Experimental Social Psychology, and the Society for Personality and Social Psychology. Previously, she served as associate editor and on the editorial board of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. She currently serves on the editorial boards of Social and Personality Psychology Compass, Group Processes and Intergroup Relations, Basic and Applied Social Psychology, and Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

Research Focus

Professor Pickett’s research explores the basic questions regarding how individuals interact with their social environment to satisfy important psychological goals and motives. She focuses on three specific lines of inquiry. One line of research is devoted to understanding the motivational processes that underlie social identification. More specifically, she is interested in the motivations that may be served by memberships in social groups and how these motivations shape individuals' perceptions of themselves and other group members. The second line of research centers on the processes through which individuals maintain social inclusion and belonging. In a third line of work, she studies the role that perceived entitativity – the extent to which social aggregates are seen as coherent units – plays in the judgments that perceivers make about groups and group members. The thread that runs through all of these lines of research is the idea that humans are, by nature, gregarious creatures whose desire to belong to groups, form friendships, and connect with others shapes many of their thoughts, emotions and behaviors.

Selected Publications

  • Smaldino, P. E.,  Calanchini, J., &  Pickett, C. L. (in press). Theory development with agent-based models. Organizational Psychology Review.

  • Smaldino, P. E.,  Pickett, C. L., Sherman, J. W., &  Schank, J. C. (2012). An agent-based model of social identity dynamics. Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, 15(4): 7.

  • Leonardelli, G. L.,  Pickett, C. L., &  Brewer, M. B. (2010). Optimal distinctiveness theory: A framework for social identity, social cognition, and intergroup relations. In M. P. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 43, pp. 66-115) San Diego, CA: Elsevier Academic Press. 
  • Hess, Y. D., & Pickett, C. L. (2010). Social rejection and self- versus other-awareness. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 46, 453-456. 
  • Wesselmann, E. D.,  Butler, F. A.,  Williams, K. D., &  Pickett, C. L. (2010). Adding injury to insult: Unexpected rejection leads to more aggressive responses. Aggressive Behavior, 36, 232-237. 


Professor Pickett has taught courses in Psychology of the Self, Topics in Social and Personality, and Social Cognition.


In 2007, Professor Pickett was profiled in the Association for Psychological Science Observer article, "Rising Stars: Bright Lights in Psychological Science."  Her research has been funded by the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF).