I hold a BA in Applied Cross-Linguistic Communication from the University of Bologna, and an MRes in Speech, Language, and Cognition from University College London. In July 2016 I completed a PhD in Psychology at the University of Nottingham, under the supervision of Dr Alastair Smith and Dr Ruth Filik. I have been working as a Research Affiliate in the Centre for Research in Applied Linguistics since January 2016 on a number of projects involving eye-tracking measures of reading and language processing.
My main area of expertise involves the use of eye tracking and behavioural paradigms, which I have employed extensively during my PhD to study the processing of language. More specifically, I am interested in the processing of spatial language (i.e. linguistic descriptions of routes and environments), and in what language processing can tell us about the underlying mental representations. To this end, I attempt to integrate theory- and data-driven approaches in designing behavioural manipulations that can help us unpack mental representations, and understand their format and content. I am especially interested in the phenomenology of mental imagery, and how differences in phenomenal experiences correlate with differences in performance in a number of tasks.
I am currently involved in a number of research projects with Dr Kathy Conklin, Professor Jo Guy, and Dr Rebekah Scott, investigating the processing of literary variants using eye tracking and… read more
I am currently involved in a number of research projects with Dr Kathy Conklin, Professor Jo Guy, and Dr Rebekah Scott, investigating the processing of literary variants using eye tracking and exploring the application of empirical methods to the study of literature.
I am also part of a project aiming to apply eye-tracking and computational analyses to the processing of legal documents, with the goal of providing legal practitioners with support and development opportunities through the School's consultancy - Linguistic Profiling for Professionals.
Concurrently, I am involved in the construction of a large database of eye-tracking datasets as part of the EMNED project, carried out with Dr Conklin and collaborators in the School of Mathematical Sciences. The goal of this project is to enable Big Data investigations of reading behaviour.
My doctoral research investigated the processes through which we can construct mental representations of a described route or environment, and of how we can use those mental representations to navigate said space. More specifically, I explored the way an imagined spatial perspective (e.g. an imagined first-person vs bird's-eye view) can influence the processing of spatial descriptions and maps, particularly with respect to the attention allocated to features such as landmarks. I additionally investigated how representational congruence between language encoding and behavioural test (i.e. between the relational terms used in a spatial description, the imagined perspective being maintained during language processing, and the one required during a verification task) can variously affect performance. This highlighted the complexity of interpreting behavioural results without an in-depth task analysis, and the importance of understanding the mental representations that mediate input processing and behavioural output.
In the future I aim to keep investigating the intricate relationship between language and thought, with a particular focus on individual differences in mental representations and imagery. I would like to expand this work from simple descriptions of routes to more complex and vivid descriptions of environments and narratives in more complex prose texts (i.e. short stories, novellas, and novels). The driving principle behind this project is that a more objective understanding of how information is encoded in mental representations, and developing better ways to quantify within- and between-subject variance, will not only provide novel ways to explore language processing and cognition, but also lead to intriguing practical applications. To this end, I am looking to explore inter- and multidisciplinary approaches to human-computer interaction that make use of natural language processing and various physiological measures (e.g. eye tracking, electroencephalography, electromyography). Additionally, the information obtained about how individuals construct mental representations could be of use to researchers interested in the empirical study of literature and to authors themselves.
Furthermore, I am interested in exploring the phenomenology of mental representations across development, particularly with respect to how different types of mental representations (e.g. mental and situation models, perceptual simulations, motor imagery, etc.) might lead to the acquisition of semantic categories. Such a project would involve the collection of large sets of unconstrained linguistic outputs and the application of cognitive discourse analysis (CODA) methodologies to it, in order to obtain information on how speakers construe semantic categories, and how those conceptions might change over time.