Keynotes bios and abstracts



Fabrizio Calzavarini, Università di Torino, Italia (winner of the AISC Young Researcher Prize 2022)


Rethinking Semantic Grounding

Abstract: A core assumption in the current neurosemantic research is that meanings of concrete words (object nouns, action verbs) are at least partially grounded in modality-specific representations implemented by perceptual and motor cortices. Nevertheless, increasing evidence from the multisensory research suggests that extensive portions of what are traditionally considered modality-specific cortices are in fact supramodal in nature – that is, they can process specific information in multiple sensory modalities and in both normal and sensory-deprived individuals. My central argument in this talk is that the amount of data collected within the supramodal paradigm, although certainly not conclusive, is already robust enough to foster reflections about the role of modality-specificity in the semantic brain and to prompt considerations about the possibility of promoting a property-specific and modality-invariant turn in neurosemantics.

Bio: I am currently a Postdoc Researcher at the University of Turin, Italy, and one of the founding members of the MUMBLE Research Group, at the  Center for Logic, Language, and Cognition(LLC). I am also the co-Information Officer of the European Society of Philosophy and Psychology (ESPP) and the co-founder of Neural Mechanisms Online, the first worldwide series of synchronous online events dedicated entirely to the interaction between philosophers and neuroscientists. My research interests focus on two interrelated areas. One area falls at the intersection between philosophy and neuroscience (neurophilosophy), focusing on the cognitive and neural substrates of lexical and sentential meaning, mental imagery, perception, and reasoning. The other area addresses philosophical and foundational issues in cognitive neuroscience more generally (philosophy of neuroscience). On these topics, I have published two monographs, one edited book, and several articles in national and international journals.



Ute Schmid, Universitaet Bamberg, Germany 


Near-miss Explanations to Teach Humans and Machines


Abstract: In explainable artificial intelligence (XAI), different types of explanations have been proposed -- feature highlighting, concept-based explanations, as well as explanations by prototypes and by contrastive (near miss) examples. In my talk, I will focus on near-miss explanations which are especially helpful to understand decision boundaries of neighbouring classes. I will show relations of near miss explanations to cognitive science research where it has been shown that structural similarity between a given concept and a to be explained concept has a strong impact on understanding and knowledge acquistion. Likewise, in machine learning, negative examples which are near-misses have been shown to be more efficient than random samples to support convergence of a model to the intended concept. I will present an XAI approach to construct contrastive explanations based on near-miss examples and illustrate it in abstract as well as perceptual relational domains.


Bio: Ute Schmid is full professor of Cognitive Systems at the University of Bamberg. She has university diplomas in computer science as well as psychology, and a doctor degree and a habilitation in computer science from TU Berlin. She is a EurAI fellow, member of the board of directors of the Bavarian Institute of Digital Transformation (bidt) and member of the Bavarian AI Council. Furthermore, Ute Schmid is head of the Fraunhofer IIS project group Comprehensible AI. Research interests of Ute Schmid are in the domain of comprehensible machine learning, explainable AI, and high-level learning on relational data, especially inductive programming. Research topics are generation of visual, verbal and example-based explanations, cognitive tutor systems, and cooperative and interactive learning.




Murray Smith, Kent University, UK


Triangulation Revisited: the Case of Empathy


Abstract: What is the relationship between detailed critical analysis of films, and the background assumptions made by a given theory of film spectatorship? In this presentation, I explore this question via a consideration of the place of empathy in our experience of films, in the light of the method of triangulation—the coordination and integration of phenomenological, psychological, and neuroscientific evidence (as set out in my Cinema, evoluzione, neuroscienze: Un'estetica naturalizzata de film, Dino Audino 2022). Empathy – defined as the capacity to feel with another agent as distinct from feeling for them – is often regarded as central to the special value that artworks, including films, possess. Films possess a particular capacity to allow us to ‘imagine from the inside’ the experience of others, real and fictional, putting us ‘in their shoes.’ But what is this capacity, and how is it to be distinguished from related phenomena, such as sympathy, and vicarious experience? In answering this question, I focus on the special, irreducible role of critical analysis. Such analysis is where the rubber of theoretical assumptions meets the road of the material work.


Bio: Murray Smith is Professor of Philosophy, Art, and Film and Director of the Aesthetics Research Centre at the University of Kent. He was President of the Society for Cognitive Studies of the Moving Image from 2014–17, and a Laurance S. Rockefeller Fellow at Princeton University’s Center for Human Values for 2017–18. He has published widely on film, art, and aesthetics. His publications include Film, Art, and the Third Culture: A Naturalized Aesthetics of Film (Oxford University Press, 2017; translated as Cinema, evoluzione, neuroscienze: Un'estetica naturalizzata de film, Dino Audino 2022), Trainspotting (BFI, revised edition 2021), and Engaging Characters: Fiction, Emotion, and the Cinema (Oxford University Press, revised edition 2022). Currently he is working alongside cognitive scientists on two Templeton-funded projects – ‘Art Opening Minds’ (2022-3) and ‘Character Engagement and Moral Understanding’ (2022-5) – as well as a new collection, Observing Film Art, devoted to the work of David Bordwell.  



Simone Sulpizio, Università di Milano-Bicocca, Italia 


Should I say or should I not - Properties and processing of taboo words


Abstract: The use of taboo words represents one of the most common and arguably universal linguistic behaviors. Taboo words are used by people of all social extractions, with a relatively high frequency of occurrence. In this talk, by presenting recent behavioral, electromyographic, and neuroimaging data, I will offer a multifaceted picture of taboo words from the perspective of the psychology of language. I will start by offering a semantic characterization of taboo words in several languages across the globe. Then, focusing on Italian, I will describe how taboo words are recognized and processed by the mind/brain. Finally, I will show how taboo information is faced and dealt with by the word recognition system. I will conclude by offering a characterization of the taboo lexicon and, more broadly, of its contribution to understanding how language affects people and how people can control prepotent interfering linguistic information.


Bio: Simone Sulpizio is Associate Professor at the Department of Psychology, University of Milano-Bicocca. His research program focuses on the neurocognitive mechanisms of word processing in mono and bilinguals, with a particular interest for the interplay between language processing and social and emotional factors.

He studied Linguistics at the University of Rome La Sapienza (in 2008) and obtained the PhD in Psychological Science and Education at the University of Trento (in 2011). He spent some visiting and working periods abroad – e.g., at the Max Plank Institute for Psycholinguistics (as PhD visiting student) and at the Nagasaki University (as Assistant Professor).

He is Deputy coordinator of the Doctoral course in Psychology, Linguistics, and Cognitive Neuroscience, at the University of Milano-Bicocca. He is also member of the Editorial Board of Plos One and Bilingualism: Language and Cognition.


Pascale Willemsen, University of Zurich, Switzerland


Mirror, mirror on the wall: Why blame and praise are not reflections of one another


Abstract: Philosophers claim that an agent’s moral responsibility can come in two variations: A blameworthy agent deserves blame, and a praiseworthy agent deserves praise. A central debate in both moral philosophy and psychology concerns the question of what moral responsibility is, how it is ascribed, and how it is verbally communicated. Surprisingly, while moral blame has been the target of considerable and illuminating philosophical and psychological discussions, little to no attention has been paid to moral praise. This omission in has recently been noticed and criticised from various sides. One reason why praise has been neglected may stem from the philosophical assumption that praise is the positive counterpart of blame. By understanding how blame works, so goes the assumption, we can infer all we (really) need to know about praise. It is unclear whether the symmetry assumption is shared by psychologists. What remains indisputable is their overwhelming focus on blame. In this talk, I argue that blame and praise are not two sides of the same coin but differ with respect to the underlying cognitive and affective processes and also at the linguistic level. I zoom in on some recently detected psychological and linguistic effects.

Bio: I am an SNSF Ambizione Research Fellow and the Principle Investigator of the research group  “Investigating Thick Ethical Concepts — Philosophical and Empirical Perspectives” (short: InTEC), located at the University of Zurich. 
My research interests are in moral philosophy and metaethics, moral psychology, as well as experimental philosophy. I have intensively worked on the attribution of moral responsibility, with a special focus on the role of causal judgments. At the moment, I focus on thick ethical concepts and their role in metaethical debates. I argue that empirically investigating thick ethical concepts will not only contribute to our theoretical understanding of these concepts, but will also inform how normativity enters ordinary language, metaethical and normative-ethical debates, and theories of moral psychology.



Invited book symposium


Cristiano Castelfranchi, ISTC, CNR, Roma, Italia



Last update 10 November 2023