Inner grounding of abstract concepts: the role of interoception and social metacognition

Proponente Anna Maria Borghi - Professore Ordinario
Sottosettore ERC del proponente del progetto
Componenti gruppo di ricerca

The capacity to use abstract concepts is crucial for our species. While until some years ago abstract concepts were defined only in a negative way, recently some proposal have emerged, showing that interoceptive and social experience might characterize more abstract than concrete concepts. The project focuses on interoception and metacognition in abstract concepts, i.e. in concepts like 'freedom', that do not have a single, perceptually bound referent.
It starts from the hypothesis that, while concrete concepts might be more grounded in exteroceptive experience, interoception and social metacognition (the awareness of the inadequacy of our knowledge and the need to rely on the competences and help of others) might play a major role for abstract concepts, and especially for some kinds of abstract concepts. It is organized into 2 work-packages (WPs). The aim of WP1 is to investigate whether interoceptive sensitivity characterizes more abstract than concrete concepts, and whether it is modulated by the kind of abstract concept (e.g. playing a major role for emotional and social than for numerical ACs). The aim of WP2 is to verify the role played by social metacognition for abstract compared to concrete concepts, and to investigate whether the activation of this mechanism is modulated by the kind of ACs (e.g. whether it plays a major role for mental states than for other ACs) and it changes in clinical populations. Studies on adults and children and with clinical populations (children with autistic spectrum disorder, patients who use rumination) will be conducted with a variety of techniques and methods (questionnaires, behavioral studies, EEG, TMS, thermal imaging camera). The project adopts an interdisciplinary approach, and has implications relevant for a variety of different areas: from cognitive and developmental psychology and neuroscience, to social neuroscience, to clinical psychology.

SH4_5, SH4_8, SH4_2

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