What I like most, in the people I interact with as well as in the research that I carry out, is the unique way that humans have to express their emotions and understand those of others. Regardless of the intersubjective differences, humans seem to pay particular attention to certain areas of the body: from early childhood, facial and body expressions seem to be of primary importance to understand what another person is thinking/telling/wishing. However, all these are signs that we can see. Instead, I am interested in the signals that are hidden for our eyes, but not for our brain. It seems that the brain not only pays attentions to some parameters like heart rate, pupil dilation, skin conductance or skin temperature of an interlocutor, but it also allow us to imitate them. This process is called mimicry and brings us directly to the heart of my PhD project in the CoPAN lab, under supervision of Dr. Mariska Kret.
Specifically, I aim to answer three questions: first, how can we define mimicry and how does it impact on our social decisions, considering also its critical time window and impact on trust and distrust. Second, since previous findings suggest that mimicry between people can lead to synchrony of physiological parameters, I would like to clarify the relationship between these two concepts and how they are influenced by individual differences, such as in empathy of Theory of Mind. Third, I will also consider different social contexts to investigate whether mimicry is bound to certain contexts. To achieve that, I am investigating mimicry using an integrative, bio-psychophysiological multimethod approach focused on multiple types of mimicry (e.g., pupil mimicry, facial mimicry, blushing…). I will use several measuring instruments, such as EDA, EMG, ECG, Thermography and Pupil Dilation.
I conducted most of my studies at the University of Turin, where I obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Cognitive Psychology with full marks in 2015. During my Bachelor’s thesis, I did a meta-analysis voxel-based morphometry about emotion perception in patients with Antisocial syndrome due to a frontal damage. Also in Turin, in 2017 I took my Master’s degree in Neuroscience with the highest grade summa cum laude. In my master’s thesis (2017) and in 2018, I worked at the Puzzle Center, specialized in training and rehabilitation of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) patients. In this context, I got in touch with the affective neuroscience field and I studied emotion recognition from faces in TBI patients from different points of view (i.e. gaze, pupil dilation, behavioral, subjective feeling). Then, in 2018-2019 I worked as a research assistant in Prof. Marco Tamietto’s Lab for Social and Affective Neuroscience. Here, I kept studying emotion recognition from faces in healthy subjects, but from an unconscious point of view: I combined pupil dilation tracking with Continuous Flash Suppression paradigm to induce visual unawareness
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