Alberto Greco Research - Scientific contributions

During my career I have developed several new ideas. They are presented here in chronological order.

  1. Consciousness, behavior and the hypothesis of differentiation. The concepts of "consciousness" and "behavior" concern processes that take place over time. I propose a new concept that can be assimilated to the concept of "flow of consciousness": the "flow of behavior" (Greco, 1979a). The idea I propose is that between consciousness (understood as awareness) and behavior (including language) there is a continuum, because before saying or doing something we must have a mental content that anticipates it ("knowing" what we want say or do, what we are going to say or do) and this process is similar to the cell differentiation as described by embryology (Greco, 1979b).  However, we are not always fully aware of what we will say or do, and for this reason I believe that, as mentioned above, as we are dealing with processes that take place over time, we must distinguish the initial shapeless time from the one where thought / action has taken form (it has developed, it has "differentiated"). Hence the importance of language for oneself (Greco, 1980).
  2. Language for oneself and language for others. The study of language for oneself led me to identify some grammatical features that make this language different from that intended for others (Greco, 1992)
  3. Methodology of simulation in psychology. I was the first in Italy to publish a book on the methodology of simulation in psychology (Greco, 1988), recently updated on cognitive systems and models (Greco, 2011b). These works have been totally ignored.
  4. Use of models in psychology (Greco, 1994a). I have analyzed the various senses in which models are used in psychology and I have proposed that only models that have the same objects (that is to say the same psychological functions) can be compared and eventually integrated.
  5. The concept of representation in psychology (Greco, 1995a, 1997b). It is one of the most important but less understood works. First of all, I distinguish between the process of representing and what is represented. The process of representing of which I speak does not consist in managing existing representations but in constructing them, creating them. Then I clarify how to put "representations" between the stimulus and the response can serve to explain. It works in two ways: in the case of symbolic representations the explanations derive from the interpretation of the symbols, in the case of non-symbolic representations from the mere existence of representations. The most innovative contribution regards the identification of different functions of the representation: replacement (reactivate past contents no longer present or anticipate future contents not yet present) and correspondence (change of internal status corresponding to change of external status). In the 1997 update (in Italian) I described these functions even more in detail and I proposed my idea of the transition from the correspondence function to the symbolic substitution function through the simulation of the symbol grounding. I also contributed to a discussion about what neural networks can explain (Greco, 1997c).
  6. The natural corollary of the study of the concept of representation is the work on iconic and propositional representations. My empirical research (Greco, Costagliola Greco, 2008), not fully completed, has shown how different conceptual situations described in words can be translated into an iconic format. Then there is the research (not published) on the different formats of diagrammatic instructions. I could observe three types of diagrammatic descriptions: chronological (pieces arranged from top to bottom, as in a text), simple spatial (topological arrangement), mixed. This research should be completed.
  7. Research on symbol grounding (Greco and Cangelosi, 1997; Greco and Cangelosi 1999; Cangelosi Greco Harnad, 2000, 2002;  Greco Cangelosi Riga, 2004 ) is the cutting-edge one because it was made in collaboration with Harnad and Cangelosi. The simulation with neural networks for me was a way to study how we can move from non-symbolic representation to symbolic representation.
  8. Semantic deprivation (Greco, 1997a). I invented this concept as a cast of sensory deprivation. The idea of the experiment made with Siri and Spinelli was to put the subjects in a situation in which the standard condition that requires giving instructions as clear as possible to the participants is reversed. The experiment consisted of placing the participants in a situation with nonsense stimuli (semantic deprivation) but of convincing some of them to be able to make sense of these stimuli.
  9. Cognitivism and cognitive sciences. The meta-theoretical system. My contribution to the debate on cognitive sciences starts from the theoretical discussion on cognitivism and post-cognitivism, recently updated (Greco, 1995b, 2011a). I have argued above all that it is not possible to unify the various cognitive sciences into a single "cognitive science". My fundamental and original proposal of a meta-theoretical system (Greco, 2004, 2006, 2012) consists in using some concepts of systems theory (state, event), in union with the concept of flow, to represent - in a a sort of expanded psychophysical parallelism - how the theoretical concepts of the various disciplines can describe in a different way facts that can be put in correspondence in the temporal unfolding of the processes.
  10. The OACT model. As part of a European collaboration, I have developed a project of a robotic system for assistance  to the elderly (IM4U) from which I have drawn a model (OACT, Greco, 2015), proposed for a new experimental and simulation methodology. The idea essentially devises the provisional application (hypothesis formulation) and dynamic revision of theoretical models based on the interaction with the continuous flow of empirical data that can be automatically obtained in a smart space. The part concerning theoretical formalization is based on an operational analysis of theories, the creation of appropriate ontologies concerning user situations and models. From this formal part specific hypotheses would develop that would be continually and dynamically subjected to empirical verification. 
  11. Language and action. I was very interested in the relationship between language and action. First of all  I studied (Greco and Caneva, 2005) whether the representation of gestures has a holistic or compositional nature: to do this I created a paradigm in which I associated nonsense words with sensorimotor patterns. In a first investigation, there was a (compositional) condition in which a sentence was composed of three nonsense words and each of these words was associated with an aspect of a motor pattern (action, part of the body, body side: e.g., beating the left fist) and another (holistic) condition in which the entire pattern was associated with a single word. The result of those experiments seemed to support the hypothesis of a holistic representation. A subsequent research (Greco and Caneva, 2010), performed similarly but with more arbitrary motor patterns, instead shown an advantage in the compositional condition, but only when the feature relevant to the composition (in this case the position of the hand) was easily discriminable and critical to distinguish between the different motor patterns. This result seems to support the idea that sensorimotor discrimination is a preliminary step for the composition. This conclusion was supported by a new experiment (Greco and Carrea, 2012a, 2012b) made by comparing difficult and easily discriminable (integral and separable) stimuli.
  12. Embodiment of actions. I tried to replicate the ACE (Action-Sentence Compatibility Effect), a famous effect according to which in understanding language we perform an internal simulation of the described action. This effect has been generally found by requiring participants to operate some physical motion, e.g. of an arm. In these experiments, participants were required to respond using a mouse (Greco, 2021), in order to disentangle spatial and motor aspects involved in this phenomenon. In six experiments the original effect was never replicated, but this work could give new contributions. One highlighted a possible confusion of practice and compatibility, because differences in reaction times could simultaneously come from a reversed presentation order and opposite motion conditions. Another innovation was, in contrast to the usual paradigm, the inclusion of no-transfer filler sentences in the analysis. Results supported the motor, not spatial, nature of the ACE, but a surprising participants’ awareness that some stimuli involved motion was found.
    Together with my pupil Stefania Moretti, I created a new paradigm to study possible embodiment effects of sentences that express true or false content with the movements of the head to say yes and no. This research has shown that such effects exist, for the evaluation of true contents both objectively and subjectively (preferences). We also repeated this research in Bulgaria because Bulgarians move the head in opposite way to us to affirm or deny. A partial reversed effect was also found with Bulgarian subjects, but only in the early stages of response.
  13. Categorization. In the debate on the classic models of categorization (rules, prototypes, examples) I supported the thesis that these models are not alternative but explain different aspects of this process. I have shown that different categorization methods can be favored (by similarity, by attributes and by prototypes) through the appropriate manipulation of the stimuli to be categorized. (Greco, 1997d). In a recent publication with Moretti (Greco and Moretti, 2017) I studied the methods of analytic and holistic categorization, introducing a paradigm in which at the beginning there are biased examples (where the salient features are not relevant), that are subsequently gradually eliminated. In addition I created a new method of analysis of the categorization process, the Active Feature Composition Task, which replaces the traditional task of classification with a task in which it is required to "build" actively the examples to be tested by combining features.
  14. Work with students. I followed and encouraged the research on presuppositions (with Domaneschi and Carrea: Domaneschi et al. 2014, 2016).
  15. Minor contributions:
    1. The concept of "duplicity of the self" (Greco, 1981), where I explain the origin of the "double", exemplified in literature, as an expression of the automatic and uncontrollable aspects of one's own self. 
    2. The active control of the stimulus (Greco, 1982): in this work I have shown that having the possibility to choose the material to remember or to categorize, rather than receive it, facilitates paired-associate learning but seems to hinder the categorization.
    3. The "errors" found in the psychology of common sense often depend on the way how problems are posed. For example, in the problem of the 2-4-6 triplet, more information than necessary is communicated (Greco, 1989, 1991, 1998).
    4. Use of specialized schemes to explain the modalities and difficulties that are found in the understanding of school concepts, in particular mathematical and scientific (Greco, 1994b; Greco and Buscaglia, 2006).
    5. Interdisciplinary work (with linguists and neuroscientists) showing that it is possible to acquire a second language at adult age with a proficiency comparable to that of those who learn it as a first language (DeCarli et al., 2014).




     Full paper list here

    Cangelosi A., Greco A., Harnad S. (2000) From robotic toil to symbolic theft: grounding transfer from entry-level to higher-level categories.Connection Science, 12, 2, 143-162.

    Cangelosi A., Greco A., Harnad S. (2002) Symbol grounding and the symbolic theft hypothesis. In: Cangelosi A., Parisi D., Simulating the evolution of language. Springer Verlag, pp. 191-210.

    De Carli F., Dessi B., Mariani M., Girtler N., Greco A. , Rodriguez G., Salmon L., Morelli M. (2014) Language usage affects proficiency in Italian-Spanish bilinguals irrespective of age of second language acquisition. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition. DOI: 10.1017/S1366728914000054.

    Domaneschi F., Carrea E., Penco C., Greco A. (2014) Propositional attitudes towards presuppositions. An experimental approachPragmatics & Cognition, 22:3 , 291-308.

    Domaneschi F., Carrea E., Penco C., Greco A. (2014) The cognitive load of presupposition triggers: mandatory and optional repairs in presupposition failure.Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 29, 1, 136-146.

    Domaneschi F., Carrea E., Penco C. and Greco A. (2016) Selecting Presuppositions in Conditional Clauses. Results from a Psycholinguistic ExperimentFrontiers Psychol. 6:2026. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.02026

    Greco A. (1979a) L'approccio cognitivo al processo di comprensione interpersonale: ruolo dei concetti di "coscienza" e "comportamento". In: AA.VV.,Studi di Psicologia, Vita e Pensiero, Milano, vol. II, pp.91-111.

    Greco A. (1979b) L’ipotesi della differenziazione nel processo di comprensione e nelle relazioni interpersonali. In: AA.VV., Studi di Psicologia, Vita e Pensiero, Milano, vol.II, pp.113-139.

    Greco A. (1980) Linguaggio interiore e rehearsal. Archivio di Psicol.,Neur., Psich., I, 119-128.

    Greco A. (1989) Confirmation bias e feedback nel compito 2-4-6. Ricerche di Psicologia, 2, 115-130.

    Greco A. (1991) Tendenza alla conferma e uso dell'evidenza nel compito 2-4-6. Giornale Italiano di Psicologia, XVIII, 1, 79-96.

    Greco A. (1992) Aspetti teorici ed empirici della distinzione fra linguaggio per sè e per gli altri. In: AA.VV.,Competenze cognitive e sociali. Vita e Pensiero, Milano, pp. 285-304.

    Greco A. (1994a) Integrating "different" models in cognitive psychology. Cognitive Systems, 4-1, 21-32.

    Greco A. (1994b) Rappresentazione iconica e procedura nella soluzione di problemi aritmetici: un'indagine empirica. Ricerche di Psicologia, 18, 3, 7-36.

    Greco A. (1995a) The concept of representation in psychology. In: A. Greco (Ed.), A special issue on 'Representation'. Cognitive Systems, 4-2, 247-256.
    Greco A. (1995b) Il disagio del cognitivismo. In: A. Greco (a cura di), Oltre il cognitivismo. Franco Angeli, Milano, pp. 26-84.
    Greco A. (1997a) La deprivazione semantica. Una indagine empirica sulla nascita del senso. Ricerche di Psicologia, 21, 4, 81-115.

    Greco A. (1997b) Rappresentazione e simbolo in psicologia. In AA.VV.,Livelli di rappresentazione. Percorsi tra il naturale e l'artificiale, Quattroventi, Urbino, pp. 227-241. Ristampato in AA.VV.,Processi di rappresentazione, soggetto e società, Quattroventi, Urbino, 1999, pp. 149-164.

    Greco A. (1997c) Osservazioni su "Scienza Cognitiva oggi" di Domenico Parisi. Giornale Italiano di Psicologia, 3, 641-647.

    Greco A. (1997d) Come influiscono gli esempi sul modo di categorizzare? Confronto empirico fra modelli della categorizzazione. Rapporto Tecnico DISAP n. 97-02, Università di Genova. Also as a Short Report: A. Greco, How exemplar availability affects categorization? Comparing categorization models. October, 1997

    Greco A., Cangelosi A. (1997) Linguaggio e categorie: apporti della simulazione con le reti neurali. In: Scopesi A., Zanobini M. (a cura di),Processi comunicativi e linguistici nei bambini e negli adulti: prospettive evolutive e sociali, Angeli, Milano, pp. 411-433

    Greco A. (1998) Errori logici ed errori psicologici. In AA.VV.,Normatività logica e ragionamento di senso comune, Il Mulino, Bologna, pp. 261-283.

    Greco A., Cangelosi A. (1999) Language and the acquisition of implicit and explicit knowledge: a pilot study using neural networks. Cognitive Systems, 5-2, 148-165.

    Greco A. (2004) Scienza cognitiva e scienze cognitive: è possibile un quadro unificato per comportamento, coscienza, neuroni e computazione? II Convegno Nazionale Associazione Italiana di Scienze Cognitive, Ivrea, 19-20 Marzo 2004, pp. 200-204. Disponibile in versione estesa

    Greco A., Cangelosi A., Riga T. (2004) Il fondamento dei simboli attraverso l'esperienza con il mondo: un approccio connessionista. Sistemi Intelligenti, 3, 457-478.

    Greco A., Caneva C. (2005) From action to symbols and back: are there action symbol systems? In: Bara B.G., Barsalou L., Bucciarelli M. (Eds.), CogSci2005, XXVII Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Mahwah, NJ, pp. 815-820.

    Greco A. (2006) A meta-theoretical system for constructing correspondences in cognitive science. Cognitive Systems, 6-4, 287-299.

    Greco A., Caneva C. (2010) Compositional symbol grounding for motor patterns. Frontiers in Neurorobotics, 4, 111. doi: 10.3389/fnbot.2010.00111.

    Greco A. (2011) Dalla mente che calcola alla mente che vive. (book) FrancoAngeli, Milano.

    Greco A. (2011b) Sistemi e modelli cognitivi. (book) Aracne, Roma.

    Greco A. (2012) Cognitive Science and Cognitive Sciences. In Greco A. (2012) (Ed.) Cognitive science at a crossroads. Journal of Cognitive Science, 13, 471-485.

    Greco A., Carrea E. (2012a) Grounding compositional symbols: no composition without discriminationCognitive Processing, 13, 2, 139-150.

    Greco A., Carrea E. (2012b) Discriminabilità, composizionalità e fondamento dei simboliSistemi Intelligenti, XXIV, 2, 259-276.

    Greco A.(2015) Operational analysis of cognitive theories for a ubiquitous cognitive system. In: Linguaggio, Cognizione, Società, NEA-SCIENCE, Giornale Italiano di neuroscienze, psicologia e riabilitazione, ISSN 2282-6009, 2, 9, pp. 85-90.

    Greco A., Moretti S. (2017) Use of evidence in a categorization task: analytic and holistic processing modesCognitive Processing, 18, 4, 431-446. DOI: 10.1007/s10339-017-0829-2

    Greco A. (2019) How can cognitive science make explanations in a single framework: using flows beyond levels. Paper presented at the AISC Mid-term Conference, Lucca, 2019 May 22nd-24th.

    Moretti S., Greco A. (2018) Scegliere con la testa: effetti di “embodiment” nell’espressione di preferenze. Sistemi Intelligenti, XXX, 1, 33-58.doi:10.1422/89316

    Moretti S., Greco A. (2018) Truth is in the head. A nod and shake compatibility effect. Acta Psychologica, 185C, 203-218. doi:10.1016/j.actpsy.2018.02.010

    Moretti S., Greco A., Andonova E., Giagtzidou A. (2019), L’effetto di compatibilità motoria con i gesti dell’annuire e dello scuotere la testa: un embodiment universale o culturale? Sistemi Intelligenti, XXXI, 2, 293-314.doi:10.1422/93575 

    Moretti S., Greco A. (2020)  Nodding and shaking of the head as simulated approach and avoidance responsesActa Psychologica, 203, 102988, doi:10.1016/j.actpsy.2019.102988

    Greco A(2021) Spatial and motor aspects in the “Action-Sentence Compatibility Effect”Frontiers in Psychology-Cognition. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.647899

    Minor contributions:
    Greco A. (1981) Alcune osservazioni sul problema della duplicità del Sè. Archivio di Psicol., Neur., Psich., 118-120.
    Greco A. (1982) Il ruolo del controllo attivo dello stimolo nei processi di categorizzazione e nell'apprendimento. Archivio di Psicol., Neur., Psich., II, 223-235.