Professor Peter Lovibond

Professor Peter Lovibond

School of Psychology




My research area is associative learning. I did my PhD at UNSW and a postdoc at Cambridge University in the field of animal conditioning. I then came back to Australia to complete a degree in clinical psychology, and took up my first academic position at the University of Sydney. I now work at UNSW in human associative learning and its applications to clinical disorders such as anxiety and addiction. The focus of my research is the role of cognitive processes such as reasoning and expectancy in associative learning.


    • BSc(Psych), UNSW, 1975
    • PhD, UNSW, 1980
    • MSc(Clin Psych), UNSW, 1985




Research Goals

I carry out laboratory-based research to investigate the mechanisms of associative learning. This type of learning is fundamental for adaptation. Learning predictive or causal associations between stimuli in our environment allows us to anticipate and prepare for future threats and opportunities (Pavlovian conditioning). Learning associations between our own actions and their consequences allows us to learn new skills, obtain resources and avoid danger (instrumental conditioning).

Classical research in associative learning by pioneers like Pavlov and Skinner was carried out in a reflexive tradition using animal subjects, encouraging the popular view of associative learning as automatic and unconscious. However subsequent research has shown that associative learning is surprisingly complex and abstract.

My research has highlighted the role of reasoning, expectancy and conscious awareness in human associative learning. I also study the role of these processes in clinical disorders. For example I have shown that expectancy of harm is critical in the regulation of anxiety and avoidance, and that anxious individuals have exaggerated harm expectancy. I have also worked on the role of drug-associated cues in promoting drug craving and relapse in addiction.

In addition I am interested in the structure and aetiology of negative emotional states. I am the co-developer of a self-report measure, the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales (DASS), which aims to assess the severity of these closely related states. I maintain the DASS website:

Research Grants

      • ARC Discovery Grant (2019 - 2021), How do people learn inhibitory associations? (P. Lovibond)
      • ARC Discovery Grant 2016 – 2018, The role of inductive reasoning in generalization of associative learning (P. Lovibond, B. Hayes)
      • ARC Discovery Grant 2013 – 2015, Testing the multiple learning system model with eyeblink conditioning in normal and amnesic participants (P. Lovibond, B. Colagiuri)
      • NHMRC Project Grant 2011 – 2013, The structure of negative affective states in youth: Identifying the core symptoms of depression, anxiety and tension/stress in children and adolescents (M. Szabo, P. Lovibond)

Current Student Projects

Michelle Satkunarajah (MSc) Role of context conditioning and sensitisation in the eyeblink Perruchet effect

David Ng (PhD) The learning mechanisms that underlie how people form and defend false beliefs

Supervision Opportunities/Areas

Topics in learning and experimental psychopathology




Courses I teach

PSYC2001: Research Methods 2

PSYC7221: Experimental Clinical Psychology 2

PSYC3202 Clinical and Cognitive Neuroscience

Professional affiliations and service positions

Fellow, Australian Psychological Society

Fellow, Association for Psychological Science

Fellow, Australian Association for Cognitive and Behaviour Therapy

Fellow, Academy of Social Sciences in Australia

Member, Experimental Psychology Society

Consulting Editor, Journal of Abnormal Psychology

Past positions

Deputy Dean of Science UNSW 2009-2016

Acting Dean of Science UNSW 2016-2017

Member, ARC College of Experts 2009-2011

Chair, Heads of Departments and Schools of Psychology Association 2003-2004

Head, School of Psychology UNSW 2002-2008


+ 61 (2) 9385 3830
School of Psychology University of New South Wales Sydney NSW 2052 Mathews Building Room 914

My Research Supervision

David Ng (PhD) topic: illusory causation