As a Professor of Physiology at Università di Parma the main research of Vittorio Gallese is the relationship between action perception and cognition, using a variety of neurophysiological and neuroimaging techniques. At the Berlin School of Mind and Brain the neurophysiologist contributes as an Einstein Visiting Fellow to research about the development of socio-cultural identity.
My research project concerns the link between the I-Thou dimension of our relationship with other fellow humans and the 'we-dimension', characterizing cultural identity. We want to explore both theoretically and empirically, with the aid of cognitive neuroscience, the mutual interplay between brain-body and culture.
Please close your eyes for a moment and think about your research project. What do you see at first?
I see people visiting a museum, talking about their shared experience of beholding an art work. That is, I see humans engaged in typical contemporary cultural practice.
What kind of interview question would you like to be asked?
What can cognitive neuroscience say about human nature?
Please name three things that you spontaneously connect to Albert Einstein!
Relativity, German science, politics.
What do you do first thing in the morning when you arrive at your workplace, and why?
I turn on my desktop and read the mails to check what is awaiting me.
What would your research project look like if it was a piece of art?
An open-ended work in progress.
Please imagine you had one free wish to guarantee the success of your research project. What would it be?
To always have brilliant young collaborators teaching me something new I did not know before.
Is there a place in Berlin that links to the work on your research project?
If it is meant metaphorically, well, plenty of them. To pick one, I’d say Museumsinsel, as the epitome of a place where human individuals relate one-another to be in touch with the outcomes of a prototypical expression of human societies: art and culture.
To your opinion, what are the three most meaningful inventions of mankind?
The hand-axe, writing and democracy.
Please give your research project a suitable fantasy name!
From I-Thou to We.
What is the most favorite word you ever heard in Berlin? And what does it mean?
Genau, I agree!
Who or what inspires you at work?
The young PhD students around me and a constant dialogue with the humanities.
Which district or place in Berlin do you like the most, and why?
Mitte and Prenzlauer Berg, because they still speak of pre-war Berlin.
What characteristics distinguish reseachers from other people?
I guess researchers are more curious and determinate to satisfy their curiosity.
What do you think: Is there a true prejudice about researchers?
Prejudices are never true.
With whom would you like to exchange your workplace for one day, and what would you do then?
I’d like to be Jonas Kaufman for a day and enjoy singing Verdi & Wagner as he can.