Michele Scaltritti


Language comprehension and production are remarkably complex activities involving multiple cognitive functions working together at high levels of efficiency. For example, in order to read a single word we need to process the identity and the order of multiple highly similar visual stimuli in close spatial proximity (the letters). Yet, a skilled reader would take just a few hundred of milliseconds to recognize the word and understand its meaning. How can our perceptual and cognitive functions process such complex information in such a short time?

Similarly, in order to utter or write a single word, we need to go all the way from our communicative intentions onto the actual motor behavior that translates them into spoken or written words, retrieving all the relevant semantic, lexical and syntactic representations. Again, this typically happens in a fraction of a second.

In my research, I try to explore the complexities of reading and language production, their cognitive specificities, and in their links with other functions such as visuo-spatial attention, perception, and motor programming.

Research directions 

Letter recognition and reading

In this this research line, I try to understand how the perceptual and cognitive functions are able to process complex visual stimuli such as arrays of letters with the efficiency typically displayed by skilled readers. This is usually done within simple behavioral experiments by exploring the performance of young adult readers in recognizing arrays of letters displayed for very short durations.

By manipulating the position of letters within the strings, their visual quality, the deployment of visuo-spatial attention, the location of the strings in the visual field, and the time of exposure, we can gain insight on the underlying perceptual, cognitive, and attentional mechanisms.

This research line further attempts to understand how simple visuo-perceptual factors may influence reading of actual texts in everyday situations, such as webpages, using measures of eye movements in reading.

Visual word recognition and word production

In order to read and produce words, we need to access, retrieve, and combine multiple sources of information. Orthographic, semantic, lexical, and phonological information interact and combine even within the most simple linguistic task. In this research line, I try to understand the interactions between different levels of processing using behavioral experiments as well as electroencephalographic (EEG) measures during recognition and production of single words.

Links between language processing and motor programming

Language production necessarily requires cognitive processing, to retrieve lexical, semantic, and syntactic information. However, we also need motor programming, in order to enact the behavior that translates our communicative intentions into spoken or written words. In this research line I try to explore the transition between cognitive processing and motor response programming in language.

By doing this, my hope is to tackle the boundary between cognition and action, and the potential interplay between these stages. Typically, this line of research revolves around EEG indexes of motor programming and motor response execution, in order to understand how these are influenced by cognitive processes and variables.

Internal Collaborations 

Remo Job – Full Professor
Francesco Vespignani – Associate Professor


2013 - Young Researcher Award for Best Oral Presentation at the “XIX AIP National Congress of Experimental Psychology”, Associazione Italiana di Psicologia (AIP)
2012 - Marica De Vincenzi Onlus Award for Young Researchers in Psycholinguistics at the “XVIII AIP National Congress of Experimental Psychology”, Associazione Italiana di Psicologia (AIP)

External Collaborations 

F.-Xavier Alario, Aix Marseille Université & CNRS, France
David A. Balota, Washington University in St. Louis, USA
Jonathan Grainger, Aix Marseille Université & CNRS, France
Marieke Longcamp, Aix Marseille Université & CNRS, France
Eduardo Navarrete, Università degli Studi di Padova, Italy
Francesca Peressotti, Università degli Studi di Padova, Italy
Simone Sulpizio, Università Vita-Salute San Raffaele, Milano, Italy
Matteo Vascello, ASST Papa Giovanni XXIII, Bergamo, Italy

Selected Publications 

  • Scaltritti, M., Alario, F.-X., & Longcamp, M. (2018). The scope of planning serial actions during typing. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 30, 1620-1629. doi: 10.1162/jocn_a_01305
  • Scaltritti, M., Longcamp, M., & Alario, F.-X. (2018). The Serial Order of Response Units in Word Production: The Case of Typing. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 44, 819-825. doi:10.1037/xlm0000494
  • Scaltritti, M., Dufau, S., & Grainger, J. (2018). Stimulus orientation and the first-letter advantage. Acta Psychologica, 183, 37-42. doi:10.1016/j.actpsy.2017.12.009
  • Scaltritti, M., Pinet, S., Longcamp, M., & Alario, F.-X. (2017). On the functional relationship between language and motor processing in typewriting: An EEG study. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 32, 1086-1101,doi:10.1080/23273798.2017.1283427
  • Aschenbrenner, A. J., Balota, D. A., Weigand, A. J., Scaltritti, M., & Besner, D. (2017). The first position effect in masked letter perception. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 43, 700-718. doi:10.1037/xhp0000342
  • Scaltritti, M., Peressotti, F., & Navarrete, E. (2017). A joint investigation of semantic facilitation and semantic interference in continuous naming. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 43, 818-823. doi:10.1037/xlm0000354
  • Scaltritti, M., Peressotti, F., & Miozzo, M. (2017). Bilingual advantage and language switch:  What’s the linkage? Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 20, 80-97. doi: 10.1017/S1366728915000565
  • Scaltritti, M., Arfé, B., Torrence, M., & Peressotti, F. (2016). Typing pictures: Linguistic processing cascades into finger movements. Cognition, 156, 16-29. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2016.07.006
  • Scaltritti, M., Navarrete, E., & Peressotti, F. (2015). Distributional analyses in the picture–word interference paradigm: Exploring the semantic interference and the distractor frequency effects. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology. 68, 1348-1369. doi:10.1080/17470218.2014.981196
  • Scaltritti, M., & Balota, D. A. (2013). Are all letters really processed equally and in parallel? Further evidence of a robust first letter advantage. Acta Psychologica, 144, 397-410, doi:10.1016/j.actpsy.2013.07.018


In the past, my research has been supported by: Ministero dell’istruzione dell’Università e della Ricerca (MIUR), Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR), Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Trento e Rovereto