The guiding aim of my research is to study autonomous goal-directed behavior as the root of all social phenomena, at the same time highlighting how social life shapes individual cognition.
I have contributed in particular to the following areas:
1. Autonomous agency and goal dynamics: nature, evolution and development of anticipatory cognition, from simple predictive mechanisms to mental expectations; intentions, desires, needs, values, commitments, will, ...
2. The cognitive structure of society: how individual cognition contributes to determine social dynamics, studied in various phenomena such as normative behavior, power and dependence relations, trust and delegation, mind ascription, collective and joint action, communication, deception;
3. Social and evolutionary functions and their relationship with individual goals: a unified approach to the emergence of social order from individual actions and to the internalization of social norms, values, and institutions within individual minds; self-organization and cognition; functions vs goals;
4. The cognitive anatomy of emotions: analysis of several complex emotions, such as surprise, shame, guilt, envy, hope, etc., in terms of the necessary cognitive states to elicit them;
5. Cognitive and relational aspects of rehabilitation: forgiving, rights, empowerment, recovery, defensive mechanisms, etc. .