Maria Paola Paladino


In my research, I investigate cognitive process and motives that come into play when people perceive, relate and behave toward other people, or social relevant entities (i.e. robots). Several of my previous and ongoing projects investigate the process of dehumanization and its behavioral outcomes in several social contexts, ranging from national identities to gender relations, and more recently, social robots (see also Jeroen Vaes webpage). More recent projects - described below – aim at examining relatively understudied topics, such as the role of linguistic cues in social perception, the contribution of the multisensory process involved in body representation in social relations, or socially relevant issues (e.g. social exclusion).   

These research questions are tested in lab experiments, field studies, or in immersive virtual reality setting. The ultimate goal of my research is to construe theoretical models that explain the interplay between individual cognition and behavior and social context and can potentially be used to face real-world issues. 

Research directions

The way they(we) speak: language and linguistic cues in person perception and intergroup relations

The way one speaks conveys a considerable amount of social information. This is the case for non-native accent that might, for instance, signal the status of immigrant, but also for more ambiguous cues as “sounding” gay. 

The way one speaks might also constitutes an important part of one’s social identity. In this line of research, (1) I investigate how the “way of speaking” might influence social categorization, lead to stereotyping and, ultimately, being a source of social discrimination; and (2) inspired by the intergroup relations in South-Tyrol, I examine the role of linguistic identity in second language mastery and acquisition.

From the body to the self and social relations

What is the role of having a body in our social experiences? To answer this question, in this line of research I revisit some key concepts in social psychology (e.g. self-other overlap, personal space, etc.) investigating the possible contribution of processes (i.e. multisensory integration) that lie at the basis of the sense of body ownership. An example of this line of investigation is my research on personal space, namely the area near the body that is generally perceived as a spatial extension of the self.

The personal space was originally defined as an invisible zone around the body that people feel as it were theirs, this concept has been operationalized as the visible distance between two or more people. In my research, I directly tackle this gap between mental representation and physical space regulation relying on the concept and paradigms - developed in cognitive neuroscience - of peripersonal space to answer some key questions on its functions.

Psychological strategies to cope with Social exclusion

Peer groups play an important role in people's lives, especially during childhood and adolescence. Being a part of a group contribute to the psychological development and fulfill fundamental social needs, as belongingness and social interactions.

For these reasons, experiences of social exclusion (i.e. being physically isolated or psychologically excluded) are generally very hurtful. In this line of research I seek to identify the psychological strategies that can help adolescences to cope and recover from social exclusion, so as to limit its harmful consequences. 

Internal collaborations

Jeroen Vaes, Associate Professor
Susanna Timeo, post-doc

External collaborations

Fabio Fasoli, University of Surrey, UK
Jolanda Jetten, University of Queensland, Australia
Paolo Riva, Università Milano-Bicocca, Italy 
Andrea Serino, Université de Lausanne, Switzerland
Simone Sulpizio, Università Vita-Salute San Raffaele, Italy

Selected publications

Scientific articles:

  • Pellencin, Paladino, Herbelin, & Serino (in press). Social perception of others shapes one's own multisensory peripersonal space. Cortex
  • Paladino, M. P., Mazzurega, M., & Bonfiglioli, C. (in press). Up-and-left as a spatial cue of leadership. The British journal of social psychology.
  • Ferrari, F., Paladino, M. P., & Jetten, J. (2016). Blurring Human–Machine Distinctions: Anthropomorphic Appearance in Social Robots as a Threat to Human Distinctiveness. International Journal of Social Robotics, 8(2), 287-302.
  • Sulpizio, S., Fasoli, F., Maass, A., Paladino, M. P., Vespignani, F., Eyssel, F., & Bentler, D. (2015). The Sound of Voice: Voice-Based Categorization of Speakers’ Sexual Orientation within and across Languages. PloS one, 10(7), e0128882.
  • Paladino, M. P., Zaniboni, S., Fasoli, F., Vaes, J., & Volpato, C. (2014). Why did Italians protest against Berlusconi's sexist behaviour? The role of sexist beliefs and emotional reactions in explaining women and men's pathways to protest. British Journal of Social Psychology, 53(2), 201-216.
  • Vaes, J., Paladino, M.-P., Puvia, E.. (2011). Are sexualized women complete human beings? Why men and women dehumanize sexually objectified women. European Journal of Social Psychology, 41, 774-785.
  • Paladino, M. P., Mazzurega, M., Pavani, F., & Schubert, T. (2010). Synchronous Multisensory Stimulation Blurs Self-Other Boundaries. Psychological Science, 21, 1202-1207.
  • Paladino M.P., Poddesu L., Rauzi M., Vaes J., Cadinu M., Forer D. (2009). Second language competence in the Italian-speaking population of Alto Adige/Südtirol: evidence for a linguistic stereotype threat. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 28, 3, 222-243.   
  • Paladino M.-P., & Vaes J. (2009). Ours is human: On the pervasiveness of infrahumanisation in intergroup relations. British Journal of Social Psychology, 48, 237-251.
  • Paladino M. P., Castelli L. (2008) On the immediate consequences of intergroup categorization: approach and avoidance motor responses toward ingroup and outgroup members. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34, 9, 755-768.




Further information can be found at the following webpage: SMABLab - Social mind and behavior lab