Open positions

Positions in the PRIN project The World in Words

The project, led by Marco Marelli (University of Milano-Bicocca, Italy) and Luca Rinaldi (University of Pavia, Italy), aims at investigating the impact of linguistic experience on spatial and attentional processes, combining cognitive modelling with experimental approaches from psychology and neuroscience.


Project description

Apparently, every object we perceive or represent in our mind occupies a specific location in space, whether physical or mental. Spatial coordinates extracted from various sensory inputs would indeed be coded through the spatial memory system, which supports real and imagined navigation. The existence of this system has been endorsed in the last decades by the discovery of neurons that code spatial properties such as location and distance. Interestingly, current views further suggest that non-spatial conceptual knowledge would be as well organized through low-dimensional geometries relying on the same computations involved in real spatial navigation.

Moving beyond this spatiocentric view of the human mind, in this project (WoWo) we will probe whether language - a non-spatial learning environment - can encode and recode spatial information without the need of a dedicated spatial memory system. Our proposal is grounded on recent evidence, also from our Labs, showing that spatial representations such as geographical maps can be retrieved solely from natural language. In particular, we will employ cognitively plausible computational models (i.e., distributional semantic models) based on non-spatial associative learning mechanisms to extract latent knowledge from natural language; we will then use this linguistic information to predict human behavior in spatial tasks. We will investigate stimulus-response compatibility effects, shifts of visuospatial attentio, and how these relate to the neural bases of spatial representations and associative learning.


The Department of Psychology at UniMib

The Department of Psychology of the University of Milano-Bicocca is extremely young and yet presents a great tradition: established in 1999 as part of a newly-instituted university, its roots lie in the Institute of Psychology of the Faculty of Literature and Philosophy of the University of Milano, founded by the famous Italian psychoanalyst Cesare Musatti.

The Department combines basic and applied research, building on effective interactions between various disciplines, which all contribute to the knowledge of mind. Today is one of Italy’s most prestigious and high-ranked departments of psychology, as well as being the largest, with its current 79 faculty members, dozens of doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows, and over 20 research laboratories.


Open positions

We welcome expressions of interest from researchers with PhD in psychology, cognitive science, linguistics, computer science, and related disciplines. We aim for a good work-life balance and a friendly, inclusive research environment. Women and people of marginalized communities are strongly encouraged to apply.

Desired areas of expertise:


A 2-year post-doc position, starting early 2024, will be offered in the context of the project.  Send me an email (marco.marelli@unimib,it) for inquiries, information and expressions of interest.

Please note that this is just an informal call of interest. Positions will still be subject to a formal hiring procedure, in compliance with institutional requirements.


Deadline: December 15th


Positions in the ERC Consolidator Project BraveNewWord

The project, led by Marco Marelli at the University of Milano-Bicocca (Milano, Italy), aims at investigating the semantic side of novel word processing in adult speakers, with an interdisciplinary approach combining experimental psychology, computational linguistics and cognitive neuroscience. 


Project description

We learn new words almost on a daily basis: as adults, a new element is introduced in our vocabulary every other day. With new words, we also learn about new objects and ideas - in most cases new words are not simply additional labels to be applied to familiar objects: they connote meanings that are unknown to the speaker of a language. However, when we experience, as adults, an unfamiliar word, typically its referent is not immediately available in the same context. How then can language, by itself, constitute such a reliable instrument for the acquisition of novel meanings? What do we exploit to induce new meanings on the basis of an unfamiliar sequence of sounds or graphical elements?

BraveNewWord addresses these questions combining modelling approaches from computational linguistics and empirical investigation from experimental psychology and cognitive neuroscience. BraveNewWord posits three main sources for lexically-driven meaning acquisition: linguistic context, word morphological structure, general-purpose form-meaning mapping. The project aims at developing a computational framework that models these mechanisms through data-driven, psychologically plausible distributional systems trained on examples of natural language usage. The quantitative characterizations offered by these computational efforts will constitute, in turn, the basis for BraveNewWord large-scale empirical investigation, involving both behavioral (reaction times, mouse-tracking trajectories, diachronic language changes) and neuroscience data (event-related potentials, neuroimaging).


The Department of Psychology at UniMib

The Department of Psychology of the University of Milano-Bicocca is extremely young and yet presents a great tradition: established in 1999 as part of a newly-instituted university, its roots lie in the Institute of Psychology of the Faculty of Literature and Philosophy of the University of Milano, founded by the famous Italian psychoanalyst Cesare Musatti.

The Department combines basic and applied research, building on effective interactions between various disciplines, which all contribute to the knowledge of mind. Today is one of Italy’s most prestigious and high-ranked departments of psychology, as well as being the largest, with its current 79 faculty members, dozens of doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows, and over 20 research laboratories.


Open positions

In 2024 two PhD positions will be offered in the context of the project. 

Send me an email for inquiries, information and expressions of interest.