Research Areas

Research Areas

  Formal Psychological Assessment (FPA)

One of the current research area of the QPLab refers to the study and deepening of some assessment methodologies: the most recent is the Formal Psychological Assessment.

The Formal Psychological Assessment (FPA, Spoto, Bottesi, Sanavio & Vidotto, 2013) is an assessment methodology used for the formulation and the implementation of adaptive assessment tools. FPA is the formal conjunction and the clinical application of two theories of mathematical psychology: Knowledge Spaces Theory (KST; Doignon & Falmagne, 1985; 1999; Falmagne & Doignon, 2011) and Formal Concepts Analysis (FCA; Wille, 1982; Ganter & Wille, 1999).

FPA tries to overcome some of the most common limitations of the classical assessment techniques (e.g., self-report test, semi-structured interviews and observational grids), maximizing their advantages in order to build up new tools able to provide not only quantitative information, but also qualitative ones. In general, the FPA allows to detect and fruitfully use relations among a set of items of any clinical tool and a particular set of diagnostic criteria of a given clinical disorder (respectively objects and attributes, in FPA language).

The QPLab is currently focusing on two main features of FPA: the former refers to the adaptivity of each tool, that is the ability of guiding a question on the basis of the previous answer of the person, the latter deals with the possibility of creating a computerized version of this methodology, by means of specific probabilistic algorithms. Moreover, this new approach allows to analyze the set of symptom showed by a person going beyond the numerical score, by means of a qualitative analysis of each response patter. In this way an individualized profile of each person can be used to implement the diagnosis of the clinician.

FPA is currently applied by QPLab’s group to instruments investigating the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Mood Disorders and Schizophrenia.

  Mathematical Psychology

The main contribution of Mathematical Psychology is the use of mathematical models to describe psychological phenomena such as learning, perception, reasoning, and decision making. In this perspective, the QPLab’s group has deepened new theoretical models based on two Mathematical Psychology theories: the Knowledge Space Theory (KST; Doignon & Falmagne, 1985, 1999) and the Formal Concept Analysis (FCA; Wille, 1982). KST theory is based on an adaptive algorithm for the assessment of the individual knowledge, while the FCA theory is based on the binary relation between a group of objects and a group of attributes, that define a formal context. 

Particularly, the QPLab’s group is studying the joint application of both the theories (as initially proposed by Rusch and Wille, 1996) in some crucial areas of psychology, that consist in Clinical Psychology, Psychometrics and Work Psychology.

In addition, the group has addressed the possibility to apply a probabilistic approach to these theories based on logistic models, in particular the Rasch Model (Rasch, 1960,1980).

A further field of Mathematical Psychology which has been deepened in an original way in recent years is related to the study of Social Network Analysis (SNA, Wasserman & Faust, 1996). SNA allows to analyse the relationships within a group of subjects (with the term subjects we can denote both individuals and organizations) in different contexts (e.g. working places, schools, informal contexts).

  Health Psychology

Health psychology is a vast interdisciplinary branch of research devoted to understanding the scientific relations among psychological factors, behaviour and physical health and illness.

Within this research area, the QPLab’s group is interested in themes as psycho-oncology, cardiologic rehabilitation, and decision-making processes involved in the help-seeking behaviours. Particular attention is addressed to methodological aspects, for example the measurement of change in health status with Rasch models, and the construction of measurement instruments. The QPLab’s group has developed quality of life measures for the strain in parents of children with chronic diseases, the change in rehabilitative cardiology, and the psychological well-being.

A further field of study of the QPLab’s group is the Subjective Well-Being (Diener, Suh, Lucas & Smith, 1999), a research area developed within the social sciences that recently received a growing attention by health psychologists. The utility of measuring Subjective Well-Being is the possibility to use it as an outcome measure despite the type of conditions presented by the individuals.

  Risk perception, cognition and road safety

Risk perception is considered one of the central elements for the acquisition of a safe driving style. In the last few years, despite the decrease in the total rate of road accidents, the number of collisions involving mopeds and motorcycles has remained stable, especially in the case of young riders.

The QPLab research group has long been studying the psychological and cognitive components related to the improvement of risk perception and consciousness, intended as both personality characteristics and perceptual, attentive and psychophysiological mechanisms. In this area, the research group deals with the following topics:


  • attentive abilities, particularly focusing on spatial attention and response selection mechanisms, through the study of phenomena such as spatial compatibility and Simon effect, paying attention especially to learning processes concerning spatial information coding; 
  • new methodologies for both the construction of evaluation tools of risk perception and motor abilities and the responsiveness of safe driving trainings;
  • risk perception in driving abilities and the improvement of such abilities through the use of psychophysiological indexes too;
  • relations between driving performance and personality traits and relation between driving performance and the use of substances (i.e. alcohol);
  • driving abilities measures that can explain the underlying learning processes;
  • the role of individual personality characteristics in proneness to risky driving behaviours in youths.


In these areas of interest, both paper and pencil tools and real and virtual tools are employed, as for example the Honda Riding Trainer (HRT) simulator. This tool represents the European avant-garde for the active promotion of road safety, for the training of risk perception and its avoidance and for promoting a defensive driving style. It has been used in a variety of project in this field, with the collaboration of national and international research partners. 

  Functional Measurement

Among other research fields, the QPLab’s group has a particular interest in the functional measurement and in its application.

The functional measurement is a methodology used inside the general frame of the Information Integration Theory (IIT, Anderson, 1981). The IIT explains how a behavior can be considered as the product of three steps: the evaluation of the stimuli of a phenomenon and the assignment of values to each of its constituents; the integration of all the values by means of an algebraic method; finally, the formulation of a judgment or of a response. The functional measurement approach provides weight parameters which represent the importance assumed by a particular attribute of a stimulus in the overall judgment. The IIT provides three models which explain the integration process: the additive models, the multiplicative and the weighted average one.

A topic of interest of the QPLab’s group in this field deals with the weighted average models: in fact, the QPLab has been involved in the development and the use of a method, called R-average (Vidotto & Vicentini, 2007) which is able to estimate and identify the best subset of parameters that allows a model to fit empirical data, by using the smallest set of weight parameters. This method has been also implemented into an R package.

The QPLab’s group works also on the application of the functional measurement: for instance, this methodology has been applied in the naïve physics, in particular for the estimation of the average numerosity of sets of dot patterns during arithmetic tasks; another example lies in marketing research, in which this methodology has been used to understand which product attributes influence the most consumer evaluation and preference of a product.

Finally, the functional measurement has been applied in moral judgments research, in order to explain trust-related judgments in terms of information integration among different components of trusting beliefs (e.g., benevolence, competence, honesty, and predictability).


The QPLab’s group has devoted a part of time to the research in the field of psychophysics. The studies have focused on perceptive topics, investigating phenomena such as the Poggendorf effect, an illusion that is observed when the continuity of an obliquely oriented line is broken by a vertical oriented pair of parallel lines (Poggendorf, 1860). The QPLab’s group demonstrated that this effect is present also when the lines are transversal and not only parallels.

            In addition, it has been demonstrated by the group that the effect can be observed also when the parallel lines are replaced by Kanizsa-like figures and that the use, the position and the rotation of Pac-Man tokens (generating Kanizsa-like subjective contours) induces a sort of anchor in the perceived effect. Moreover, the effect has been found also in the condition called “No Pac-Man”.

            Another branch of the research conducted by the QPLab’s group is represented by the study of the effects linked to the motion of points in the space. In particular, these studies concentrated on the conflicting spatial mislocations of the starting and vanishing points of a moving target. The results suggested that velocity modulation has an effect on the vanishing point and this effect may be due to a low-level mechanism. All these results represent a starting point for further researches in this field.