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Learning Remembering Reasoning - LRR

Learning Remembering Reasoning - LRR


ERC Sectors

SH4_5 - Attention, perception, action, consciousness


Gestures accompanying speech favour learning and memory of the discourse contents in the listener. We discovered that the observer’s motor system plays an important role in this beneficial effect of observed gestures. It is possible, at least in part, to consider memory as a mental simulation characterized by sensorimotor information and the reactivation of sensory patterns originally associated with the remembered event. We study the role of the body in the memory process; through the body, the sensory modalities “simulate” the most relevant sensory components associated with the original event.

Emotions are another factor that can enhance or undermine successful learning especially in the school context. Referring to  appraisal theories, the way of evaluating scholastic experiences in terms of importance/consequentiality and resources to face the challenges that learning activities pose, induces certain emotions which, in turn, push to implement more or less functional strategies from a point of view of performance but also of resilience. One hypothesis is that there is a relationship between positive emotions, intrinsic motivation and efficient learning. This relationship should be taken into consideration when working with children in difficulty or with specific learning disabilities.

When we observe agents about to perform an action, we tend to complete the observed action through mental simulation. This involves false memories for observed actions: we tend to remember the action completion rather than what we actually observed. We are currently exploring the processes underlying the simulation of the consequences, as well as of the antecendents, of the observed action. The observer’s motor system seems to be strongly implicated in ‘forward’ mental simulation, which has automatic features. It is likely that high level cognitive processes are involved in ‘backward’ mental simulation, which seems to be more deliberate.

High level cognitive processes are involved also in the formation of memories of autobiographical events The research we are currently carrying out aims to study how autobiographical memories are formed and what relationship there is between evaluation, emotion and memory. To this end we have investigated and are still investigating the memory of public events with a strong emotional impact (flashbulb memories).

Adults, as well as children, are able to comprehend and formulate informal algorithms, namely descriptions of a sequence of steps that transforms an input into an output. These informal algorithms are the basis for our daily activities. Of particular importance, the ability to comprehend and formulate informal algorithms is the base for computer programming. Our studies suggest the possibility of approaching to computer programming both children and adults naïve respect to computer science concepts, without using computers. In particular, we are presently investigating the basic abilities involved in informal algorithms comprehension and formulation, and the factors that contribute to determine algorithms difficulty.

Deontic reasoning can be concerned with moral questions or questions about conventions. As for moral judgments, moral grammar theories claim that they are based on innate principles of a universal grammar, whereas the socio-intuitionist theory claims that they rely on emotions. Contrary, mental model theory claims that moral judgments rely on reasoning, and that moral reasoning is nothing more than deontic reasoning about moral matters. We are presently investigating moral judgments in persistent and violent criminals, and the role of emotions in deontic rules comprehension in general.

Potential Evolution of Research Lines

Future developments with practical implications regarding the factors that favour learning:

  • exploration of the effects of gestures accompanying scientific discourse. In particular, we shall verify whether learning from a scientific discourse benefits from gestures, either observed or produced.

Future developments with practical implications regarding the factors that can hinder learning:

  • validation of a tablet application that allows the early identification of difficulties in the visual-spatial capabilities underlying many instrumental skills.
  • collaboration in the construction and standardization of a tool assessing pre-reading, pre-writing and pre-calculation skills in preschool children.

Future developments with practical implications regarding memory for actions:

  • extension of the investigation into the mental simulation involved in anticipating the outcomes of complex events and in reconstructing their causes. For example, how people imagine an individual ended up becoming an immigrant and how such explanations can deviate from explanation based on scientific data.
  • analyses of the effects of an agent’s body posture and movements respect to the observers’ body posture and movements on memory for observed actions.
  • enrichment of eyewitness interview protocols on the basis of the results of our investigations.

Future developments with practical implications regarding memory of autobiographical events:

  • detailed analysis of the methodologies used in the various studies with particular attention to which contents are considered to belong to the flashbulb memories and how the variables underlying their formation and maintenance are operationalized and measured.
  • analysis of memories of public events of strong emotional impact, with the aim to create a theoretical model that explains the relationship between the main variables involved in the formation of autobiographical memories.

Future developments with practical implications regarding algorithmic reasoning:

  • development of learning environments in which people naïve respect to computer programming (both children and adults), can approach them in informal situations. We shall verify whether training structured on the basis of the results of our experimental studies are really effective in facilitating the development of computer programming skills.

Future developments with practical implications regarding deontic reasoning:

  • the study of the roles of reasoning and emotions in comprehension and adherence to deontic rules.

Scientific collaborations

On memory, with the University of Padua (Cesare Cornoldi and Irene Mammarella) and with the University of Rome Sapienza (Giuliana Mazzoni)


On learning, with the University of California, Irvine (Linda Levine).

On memory, with the University of California, Irvine (Linda Levine) and Catholic University of Louvain (Olivier Luminet)

On reasoning, with the Princeton University and the New York University (Philip Johnson-Laird), with the Navy Center for Applied Research in Artificial Intelligence, Naval Research Lab, Washington, DC (Sangeet S. Khemlani), with the Department of Psychology, University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Warsaw (Robert Mackiewicz), with the University of Sussex, UK (Thomas C. Ormerod) and with KU Leuven (Walter Schaeken) 


Relevant publications (last 5 years)

Re, A.M., De Vita, F., Cornoldi, C., & Schmidt, S. (2023). Copy Skills and Writing Abilities in Children With and Without Specific Learning Disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, DOI: 10.1177/00222194231157089

De Vita, F., Schmidt, S., Tinti, C., & Re A.M. (2021). The role of working memory on writing processes. Frontiers in Psychology, 12: 738395. DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.738395

Ianì, F., Bucciarelli, M. 2018. Relevance of the listener’s motor system in recalling phrases enacted by the speaker. Memory, 26(8), 1084-1092.

Ianì, F., Burin, D., Salatino, A., Pia, L., Ricci, R., Bucciarelli, M. 2018. The beneficial effect of a speaker’s gestures on the listener’s memory for action phrases: The pivotal role of the listener’s premotor cortex. Brain & Language, 180-182, 8-13.

Leo F., Tinti C., Chiesa S., Cavaglià R., Schmidt S., Cocchi E., Brayda L. 2018. Improving spatial working memory in blind and sighted youngsters using programmable tactile displays SAGE Open Medicine, (6) 1–16.

Sini, B., Muzzulini, B., Schmidt, S., Tinti, C. 2018. School motivation: A comparison between Kenya and Italy. The Journal of Educational Research, 111 (6), 746–755. Ianì, F., Bucciarelli, M. 2017. Mechanisms underlying the beneficial effect of a speaker’s gestures on the listener. Journal of Memory and Language, 96, 110-121.


Relevant publications (last 5 years)

Ianì, F., Limata, T., Ras, I.N., & Bucciarelli, M. (2023). Forward effects from action observation: Evidence for a specific role for objects in anticipation of action. Psychological Research, in press.

Limata, T., Bucciarelli, M., Schimdt, S., Tinti, C., Ras, I.N., & Ianì, F. (2023). Action and posture influence the retrieval of memory for objects. Memory, 31(5), 652–664. 10.1080/09658211.2023.2185933

Frinco, R., Schmidt, S., & Tinti, C. (2022). Oltre il falso ricordo immagini indelebili? [Are there indelible images beyond the false memories?] Giornale Italiano di Psicologia, 49(1)203-208. DOI: 10.1421/104609

Ianì, F., Limata, T., Bucciarelli, M., & Mazzoni, G. (2022). The implicit effect of action mental simulation on action evaluation. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 17470218221091096.

Ianì, F. (2022). Falsi ricordi o falsi assunti?. Giornale italiano di psicologia49(1), 219-224. DOI: org/10.1421/104612
Ianì, F. (2022). Embodied Cognition: una rivoluzione a metà?. Giornale italiano di psicologia, 49 (2), 399-422.
Ianì, F. (2022). Embodied memory. In Bietti, L., Pogačar, M. (2022). The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Memory Studies. Springer, New York.
Ianì, F. (2022). La rivoluzione è tenere tutto insieme: Risposta ai commenti. Giornale italiano di psicologia, 49 (2), 473-479.
Ianì, F. (2022). Il corpo nella psicologia cognitiva. Psicoterapia psicoanalitica, 2, 157-172.

Ianì, F. (2021). Embodied cognition: So flexible as to be “disembodied”?. Consciousness and Cognition88,

Ianì, F., Limata, T., Mazzoni, G., Bucciarelli, M. 2021. Observer’s body posture affects processing of other humans’ actions. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology,

Levine, J.L., Murphy, G., Lench, H., Greene, C., Loftus, E., Tinti, C., Schmidt, S., Muzzulini, B., Grady, R., Stark, S., & Stark, C. (2021). Remembering facts versus feelings in the wake of political events. Cognition and Emotion, 35(5), 936-955.  DOI:

Limata, T., Bucciarelli, M., Schmidt, S., Tinti, C., e Ianì, F. (2021). Il ruolo del corpo durante il recupero di tracce mnestiche: quando la postura non aiuta il ricordo. Sistemi Intelligenti, 2/2021, 305-317, DOI: 10.1422/98351

Schmidt, S., Muzzulini, B.Levine, L.J., & Tinti, C. (2021). Sources of bias in memory for emotional reactions to Brexit: Current feelings mediate the link between appraisals and memories. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 35, 819–827. DOI:

Cabalo, D. G., Ianì, F., Bilge, A. R., & Mazzoni, G. (2020). Memory distortions: When suggestions cannot be easily ignored. Applied Cognitive Psychology34, 106-118.

Ianì, F., Limata, T., Bucciarelli, M., Mazzoni, G. 2020. Children’s kinematic false memories. Journal of Cognitive, Psychology, 32, 479-493.

Muzzulini, B., Tinti, C., Conway, M., Testa, S., Schmidt, S. 2020. Flashbulb memory: Referring back to Brown and Kulik's definition. Memory, 28, 766-782.

Ianì, F. (2019). Embodied memories: Reviewing the role of the body in memory processes. Psychonomic bulletin & review26(6), 1747-1766. doi:10.3758/s13423-019-01674-x

Ianì, F., Foiadelli, A., Bucciarelli, M. 2019. Mnemonic effects of action simulation from pictures and phrases. Acta Psychologica, 194, 37-50.


Relevant publications (last 5 years)

Johnson-Laird P., Bucciarelli M. (2023). Causation, the Law, and Mental Models. In Brigaglia M., Roversi C. (Eds.) Legal Reasoning and Cognitive Science: Topics and Perspectives, “Diritto & Questioni pubbliche”, Special Publication, August 2023, forthcoming.

Bucciarelli, M. 2022. Il pensiero deontico. In Gangemi, A., Antonietti, A., Fabio R. A. (Eds.) 2022. Manuale di psicologia del pensiero (pp. 211-238). Bologna: Il Mulino.

Bucciarelli, M., Mackiewicz, R., Khemlani, S.S., & Johnson-Laird, P.N. (2022). The causes of difficulty in children's creation of informal programs. International Journal of Child-Computer Interaction, 31, 100443
Ianì, F. (2022). What Exactly Does the Rubber Hand Illusion Tell Us? The
“Disembodied” and the “Embodied” Model. Psychology of Consciousness:
Theory, Research, and Practice. doi: 10.1037/cns0000346

Ianì, F., Schaeken, W., Ras, I.N., & Bucciarelli, M. (2022). Motor imagery and engagement favour spatial reasoning. Memory & Cognition, 51, 1103–1114. 10.3758/s13421-022-01383-2

Limata, T., Ianì, F., & Bucciarelli, M. (2022). Story order in attribution of moral responsibility. Language and Cognition, 1-21.
Zara, G., Veggi, S., Ianì, F., & Bucciarelli, M. (2022). Looking at the moral judgments of offenders through new lenses. Journal of Criminal Psychology, (ahead-of-print).

Bucciarelli, M. (2021). Meccanismi psicologici alla base del disprezzo del sapere scientifico. Giornale Italiano di Psicologia, 2/2021, 335-350, doi: 10.1421/102686

Johnson-Laird, P. N., Bucciarelli, M., Mackiewicz, & Khemlani, S. S. 2021. Recursion in programs, thought, and language. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 29, 430-454. Doi: 10.3758/s13423-021-01977-y.

Bucciarelli, M., Johnson-Laird, P.N. 2020. Beliefs and emotions about social conventions. Acta Psychologica,

Daniele, M., Colombo, L., Ianì, F., & Bucciarelli, M. (2020). Work-related burnout affects reasoning in nurses. Psicologia sociale, 269-283. doi: 10.1482/96847

Bucciarelli, M., Johnson-Laird, P.N. 2019. Deontics: Meaning, reasoning, and emotion. Materiali per una storia della cultura giuridica, 1, 89-112.

Bucciarelli, M., Johnson-Laird, P.N. 2019. Emotions and beliefs about morality can change one another. Acta Psychologica,

Johnson-Laird, P.N., Bucciarelli, M. 2019. A reply to Ratti and Brigaglia and Celano’s comments on deontics: meaning, reasoning, and emotion. Materiali per una storia della cultura giuridica, 1, 153-162.

Last update: 27/09/2023 15:21
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