Researcher Spotlight #13 - Riccardo Fusaroli

Riccardo Fusaroli is the next of our Associated Researchers to feature under the 'Spotlight'.

2017.08.16 | COBE Lab

1. Hi Riccardo, what is your background and job role at AU?

Born and bred in Romagna (the tastiest place in Italy). I did my Bachelor in Communication Sciences in Bologna (oldest university in the world) hoping to study with Umberto Eco. But Umberto moved to the Master in Semiotics at that time. I followed him there, but he moved to the PhD program in Semiotics (between Florence and Bologna), where I finally managed to take courses with him. Thus I got the most humanistic background you can imagine. After my PhD I complemented my background by studying cognitive science (Aarhus and UC Merced), complex systems methods and ecological psychology (Santa Fe Institute and Uconn). I'm currently training myself in machine learning, computational modelling and Bayesian statistics (in case I get bored).

I'm currently Associate Professor in the Cognitive Science education. I'm affiliated with the School of Communication and Culture and via the Interacting Minds Center with the School of Culture and Society. 

2. What are your main areas of research? 

I'm interested in the dynamics of social interactions and collective meaning-construction, from the micro-level of head movements and postural adjustments to massive-scale social coordination within social media. I'm particularly interested in the interplay between the goals of interaction and coordination dynamics: what makes a successful interaction (in different contexts)? What can go wrong? My work is aimed at quantifying and modelling these dynamics to better understand (e.g.,) how to improve teamwork, how social impairment unfolds (e.g., in autism spectrum disorder, schizophrenia, etc.,) and how it could be limited within interactions. I have a very large network of collaboration including researchers in psychiatry and clinical psychology, management, anthropology, archeology, developmental psychology and physics. Check my webpage for a long list. Most of the problems I find exciting straddles across disciplinary boundaries, so individuals cannot really tackle them effectively. 

3. Are you involved with any teaching at the moment?

I teach three courses at the B.Sc. in Cognitive Science: Experimental Methods 3, Computational Modelling and Social and Cultural Dynamics. I've been involved in PhD courses in statistical methods for humanities and social sciences. What I find most exciting is to show how deeply humanistic questions can be tackled (also) with experimental and quantitative methods, and to get students to engage with that special praxis of knowledge construction that is statistics. 

4. How did you hear about Cognition and Behavior Lab? 

 I was involved in the discussions about establishing the lab from the beginning, via my affiliation with the Interacting Minds Center.

5. Have you used the Lab? If so, what are the benefits for researchers? 

I used COBE Lab for a few experimental studies in the evolution of communication systems (e.g., people having to gesture about novel scenarios), in cognitive archeology (e.g., people having to compare, remember and reproduce ancient engravings) and social networks (e.g., people having to cooperate in solving problems across larger networks of participants). I've also been using the flexible lab (Lab 2f) for practical exercises with my students, e.g., on interpersonal coordination of heart rate and respiration. COBE Lab is great for streamlining research management practices, from participant recruitment to study planning. Not least having the equipment and facilities ready-to-go is so much faster than having to find and assemble an experimental space every time. 

6. Is there a particular recommendation you would like to pass on to other researchers? Something you wish you had known before you started, or just a useful trick.

Don't be afraid of learning new things outside of your background and comfort zone. Also Twitter is amazing for being served pointers to new skills to learn every time you check your phone. 

7. Could you recommend one academic book to fellow colleagues that you think is of great interest?

Only one? Darn! Then it should be "Statistical Rethinking" by Richard McElreath, a tour de force into what we really mean when we do statistics and how to do it right.

(I've also found "Darwin's unfinished symphony" by K. Laland and "Scale" by Geoffrey West very thought-provoking.)

8. Away from your research, what do you enjoy doing? 

These days it's mostly hopping on trampolines and messing up languages with my two year old daughter.  

9. Finally, which Associated Researcher would you like to see under 'Spotlight' next time?

Jessica Barker.

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Tags: IMC, COBE Lab, researcher interview, Spotlight