- Name: Alice Chirico
- Number of lab members or colleagues (excluding PI): A lot! And the team is constantly growing!
I have to confess that my closest collaborators are hard to identify. I can provide you with some names: prof. Andrea Gaggioli (Catholic University of the Sacred Heart of Milan), prof. Carlo Galiberti (Catholic University of the Sacred Heart of Milan), David B. Yaden (Johns Hopkins Medicine), prof. Robert R. Clewis (Gwynedd Mercy University, USA and is an Alexander von Humboldt Fellow), prof. Maddalena Mazzocut-mis (University of Milan, Department of Cultural and Environmental Heritage), Dr. Eleonora Maggioni (Fondazione IRCCS Ca’ Granda Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico di Milano), prof. Pietro Cipresso (University of Turin), prof. Elvis Mazzoni and Dr. Martina Benvenuti (University of Bologna), prof. Vlad GlaveanuWebster University Geneva)… and many others!
- Location: Milan, Italy
- Graduation Date: Ph.D. in April, 2019
- H index: 15 (Scholar); 14 (Scopus)
- Grants: Since I am not fully recognized as a senior researcher in my university, I cannot apply for grants as a PI (in Italy). However, I can say that my contribution has been central to winning the PROMETHEUS national grant (2020-2022) to contrast school dropout using technology, theater, and the sublime.
- Success of your lab’s members: All the resources I have trained are now successfully employed in different sectors, including research.
- Twitter followers: Very few, I prefer using other channels such as Facebook or the website of our ExperienceLab
Hello! Who are you and what are you working on?
I am a passionate lover of human complexity and I have always been a researcher, in a certain way. Since I was a baby, I needed to create theories about the world and other people and I have been always fascinated by science, math, as well as Italian and European ancient literature (Latin and Greek especially), and by mid-XVI philosophy. Therefore, I got my diploma in classical high school in Italy in 2008 and then, I was quite disoriented. My parents expected that I had chosen a medical school, and, actually, I studied to pass the exam (despite not being convinced at all). I failed. They also sent me to take the Bocconi University’s entry test and I succeeded immediately. However, I did not accept the position and I was forced to attend the University of Pharmacy in my town. I liked the atmosphere and also the subjects and I passed all the exams. However, I felt it was not my own way. Therefore, the following year, again, I made a new attempt with the exam to access the medical school. And I failed, again. However, this time, I tried to focus on what I really wanted to do in my life, on what I really enjoyed, thus I also took the entry tests for three different universities and the faculty of psychology. I succeeded in every single test and I interpreted it as a sign of Fate. Psychology has become my life.
Notwithstanding, this was not the end but just the beginning of my progressive “transformation” and of self-awareness. During my master’s, I felt I needed something more. I needed to feel inspired again.
My topic encounter with the world of art occurred back in 2013, when I understood that singing would have been the greatest way to express my thoughts and touch people’s souls. Purposely, I chose to start attending singing lessons to pursue a formal musical education, and I discovered an entirely new world that opened many new questions in my mind. One of these questions concerned what I felt when I sang live in my first music band and what the other members felt. It was a sort of invisible connection and when it occurred, we acted as a unique body and entity. The same year, I met Professor Andrea Gaggioli, who I chased for months before getting his OK for my master’s thesis with him. He was interested in applying his Networked Flow model on exemplars of high creativity groups, and I had a domain in which I could help him to implement the model: music bands. From this first collaboration, our study on Networked Flow (i.e., the invisible connection among band members and group performance) was born (for more details see: Gaggioli, A., Chirico, A., Mazzoni, E., Milani, L., & Riva, G. (2017). Networked flow in musical bands. Psychology of Music, 45(2), 283-297.).
Flow and group flow are still now some of my most beloved research topics, and I love to investigate this. We have conducted several studies to apply the model in several contexts and now, hopefully, I will be able to realize the first mixed (online and in presence) festival for music bands interested in empowering their creativity, their flow and their attunement for free.
This first collaboration resulted in a Ph.D. four years later, always at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart of Milan. When I say that I did all of my career path at the same institution, Italians appreciate it, instead, at the international level, it is always seen as weird. I progressively understood that, as Italians, we have different research traditions and habits. One of these habits concerns doing our best with little to no resources. This feeds creativity a lot and trains our resilience. Actually, I learnt to be resilient and to always find the bright side of things. However, this attitude was not innate. I have to say thank you to many people for this, and, especially, to prof. Pietro Cipresso, who has always been a model for me. Indeed, I have always been convinced that changing is possible and functional and I also realized that I could do something to help other people find their way, change and flourish.
It was in 2015 that I understood what my mission in life would be. Andrea (Gaggioli) was interested in the concept of transformation and what we understood, at the beginning of this enterprise, that this mechanism needed a catalyst, as something very small but extremely powerful. Suddenly and unexpectedly, I bumped into a no-more little-studied emotion. The emotion of awe. This was our catalyst of transformation. I was fascinated by all the work done by our US colleagues, starting from the paramount seminal work of Keltner and Haidt (2003) to the central studies of Piff et al. (2015). In the same year, I met a new mate, David B. Yaden who pursued this path to awe. A great journey! We started working together and we finally met when I was invited as a visiting scholar at Penn University under the supervision of Prof. Martin Seligman in 2018. Till that moment, we discovered that Virtual Reality was extremely effective in eliciting awe (Chirico et al., 2017), that this small emotion could re-shape our way of thinking creatively (Chirico et al., 2018). David was able to place awe among other self-transcendent experiences (Yaden et al., 2017) and this provided all researchers with a new reference model to study this phenomenon. Indeed, again coming back to my Italian culture, after meeting prof. Robert R. Clewis the same year, I started having a suspect that awe and the renowned experience of the sublime have more in common than what it had been posited before. Sublime, in Italy, is a sort of “sacred experience” that reminds Italians of their high school education, and which is central in Italian literature. How could we resemble the puzzle and reconnect these experiences to understand to what extent they overlap? We have studied a lot. Particularly, I started studying the philosophy of the sublime, psychophysiology, and the basic notions of complex system theory. We had to model this experience. If we were handling the sparkle of transformation, the catalysis we should be open-minded, practice abnegation, and create a multidisciplinary team able to pursue this goal. It has happened. Now, we have a very heterogeneous team spread all over the world, which is inter