Alessia Pannese

junior fellow
EURIAS cohort 2016/2017
discipline Cognition
Postdoctoral Researcher in Clinical Experimental Medicine King's College London

Research project

The ABC of Self-control: Aristotle, the Brain, and (un)Consciousness


Self-control is the ability to regulate and override one’s own thoughts, emotions, and actions, keeping them in line with overarching goals. Self-control is typically studied in terms of conscious executive function. Ancient philosophical notions and contemporary empirical neuroscience, however, suggest that much of human behaviour is not deliberate, but rather relies on unconscious, automatic processes. This project sets itself the objective of investigating the relation between the conscious and automatic aspects of self-control, from an interdisciplinary perspective.


Specifically, it proposes to examine two questions:


(i) Is self-control more or less effective depending on whether it is exercised by anticipating/avoiding as opposed to inhibiting/resisting temptation?

I will examine the empirical evidence on the impact of consciousness or lack thereof on the ability to exercise self-control in the light of Aristotle’s dichotomy between continence and temperance.


(ii) Can self-control be unconsciously primed?

I will compare and contrast the empirical evidence on the relation of self-control to cognitive load with the Aristotelian notion of habit, in order to elucidate the modalities and extent to which self-control depletes–or repletes–cognitive resources.


This study will examine these two aspects of self-control through an interdisciplinary approach that juxtaposes and integrates ancient philosophical intuitions with empirical evidence from contemporary neuroscience. The knowledge resulting from this work will serve as the basis for further theoretical and empirical enquiry into self-regulation.



Alessia Pannese trained in law (laurea, Rome), veterinary medicine (laurea, Perugia), veterinary neuroscience (M.Phil, Cambridge), human neurobiology (M.A., M.Phil, Ph.D, Columbia), and literature and arts (M.St, Oxford), and held research positions at King's College London (in clinical experimental medicine of heroin addiction), the University of Geneva (as Marie Skłodowska Curie Fellow), Columbia University (as Science Fellow), the Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America (as Art & Neuroscience Fellow), and the University of Cambridge (as Wellcome Trust Fellow).

Selected publications


'Space, Language, and the Limits of Knowledge: A Kantian View on W.T. Beckford’s Vathek', Janus Head, vol. 15, no. 2, 2016, pp. 45-83.

'Subcortical Processing in Auditory Communication', with D. Grandjean & S. Frühholz, Hearing Research, vol. 328, October 2015, pp. 67-77.

'Unconscious Neural Specificity for 'Self' and the Brainstem', with J. Hirsch, Journal of Consciousness Studies, vol. 20, no. 1-2, 2013, pp. 169-179.

'A 'Gray' Matter of Taste: Sound Perception, Music Cognition, and Baumgarten’s Aesthetics', Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, vol. 43, no. 3, September 2012, pp. 594-601.

'The 'I' of the Beholder: Studying the 'Self' between the Humanities and Neuroscience', Medical Humanities, vol. 37, no. 2, August 2011, pp. 115-122.



senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2016/2017
Paris Institute for Advanced Study
discipline Literature and Music
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2017/2018
Paris Institute for Advanced Study
discipline History
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2015/2016
Paris Institute for Advanced Study
discipline History
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2018/2019
Paris Institute for Advanced Study
discipline Political Philosophy