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While on court, beach volleyball players need to act as a whole in order to prevent the ball from touching the sand: in a fraction of a second - just before the opponent's hand spikes the ball - the passer has to predict and adjust to the attacker's action as well as to their teammate's block position. Thanks to her Consolidator Grant, cognitive science professor Natalie Sebanz is studying the cognitive and psychological mechanisms underlying joint action expertise – in other words, how individuals learn skilled actions, such as those performed by professional athletes, together.
The Theory of Mind - the ability to understand that others may have thoughts, beliefs, desires, and intentions different from ours - develops in early childhood and is considered as a key process to explain our social interactions. How do children acquire this ability? What are the cognitive and brain mechanisms that allow human beings to learn from others, to predict their behaviour and to communicate with them? These are some of the questions Dr Agnes Melinda Kovacs addresses, thanks to an ERC grant, in her laboratory in Budapest.
Malaria has always been the centre of attention for Dr Ali Salanti’s, a molecular parasitologist and an ERC grantee. With his studies, he hoped to bring new insight into pregnancy-associated malaria, to save the lives of women and their babies in areas affected by the disease. Now, Dr Salanti’s research has shifted to battling against another deadly disease: cancer. This comes after an unexpected discovery yielded ground-breaking results for the diagnosis and treatment of this illness. This is the kind of curiosity-driven research that can lead to ground-breaking serendipitous outcomes.
During the 20th century, the experiences of post-communist states in Central and Eastern Europe were very different from those of much of Western Europe. Have these different experiences fostered different attitudes when it comes to public space, and ‘public goods’ like health care, education or the environment? Dr Natalia Letki of the University of Warsaw in Poland is using an ERC Starting Grant to carry out an ambitious multi-disciplinary study of attitudes and behaviour regarding ‘public goods’ across this region – drawing on political science, sociology, economics and even psychology.