Dr Maria Filippetti

Department of Psychology
Dr Maria Filippetti
  • Email

  • Telephone

    +44 (0) 1206 873780

  • Location

    2.701, Colchester Campus

  • Academic support hours

    Please email me to book an appointment



Maria Laura completed her undergraduate and master degrees in Developmental and Educational Psychology at University of Padua, in Italy. She then moved to London to start a PhD (funded by the Marie Curie Early Stage Researcher Fellowship) at the Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development, Birkbeck College London, under the supervision of Prof Mark H. Johnson. Here she investigated body perception in newborns and infants. Maria Laura's first post-doctoral position at Royal Holloway University of London focused on the interaction between interoceptive and exteroceptive body-related signals in the development of body-awareness in infants and adults. In 2016, she moved to University College London to further her expertise on self- and body-awareness across the lifespan, with a specific focus on affective touch. Maria Laura joined the Department of Psychology of University of Essex in Autumn 2017 as a lecturer.

Research and professional activities

Research interests

The development of body awareness

What makes your body your own? How do babies learn to distinguish between their own and other people’s bodies? The purpose of this research is to study how human beings develop an integrated sense of self that is grounded to a coherent body, and how different processes interact together to maintain and updated body awareness. While my work focuses on infancy and childhood, I am also interested in adults’ body awareness.

Tactile interactions

Research on the benefits of touch for babies has shown its importance for premature infants and, more generally, for the early social and cognitive development. More recently, studies have found that touch seems to be very important in the way we come to understand that our body has boundaries and is different from other people’s bodies. The development of this function has been studied in adults but there has not been much research on the brain basis of body perception in babies. By using techniques such as fNIRS and eye tracker, we can better understand infants’ behaviour and brain development and compare it with what has been found in adults.

Development of appetitive tendencies

Unlike other species, human babies enter the world completely dependent on their caregivers to manage their needs. For example, during feeding parental behaviour can influence the development of infants’ ability to sense their hunger and satiety signals. Parental feeding style can influence children eating habits, however little is known about the interaction between infant’s sensitivity to hunger states and parental influences in predicting eating behaviour later in life. I am interested in understanding the relationship between eating behavior in caregivers and infants’ ability to promptly identify and correctly interpret their internal states of hunger and satiety.

Teaching and supervision

  • Preparing for University Psychology (PS116)

  • Introduction to Personal Development and Employability (PS117)

  • Developmental Psychology (PS406)

  • Enhancing employability and career planning (PS417)

  • Advanced employability skills and career progression (PS492)

  • Making connections: How children develop (PS507)

  • MSc Psychology Research Project (PS900)

  • Advanced Developmental Psychology (PS931)

  • Research Project (MSc) (PS934)

  • Special Topics in Individual Differences and Developmental Psychology (PS938)

  • Discovering Psychology: The Science Behind Human Behaviour (PS111)


Journal articles (13)

Orioli, G., Filippetti, ML., Gerbino, W., Dragovic, D. and Farroni, T., (2018). Trajectory Discrimination and Peripersonal Space Perception in Newborns. Infancy. 23 (2), 252-267

Crucianelli, L., Wheatley, L., Filippetti, ML., Jenkinson, P., Kirk, E. and Fotopoulou, A., (2018). The Mindedness of Maternal Touch: An Investigation of Maternal Mind-Mindedness and Mother-Infant Touch Interactions. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience

Filippetti, ML. and Tsakiris, M., (2018). Just before I recognize myself: the role of featural and multisensory cues leading up to explicit mirror self-recognition. Infancy. 23 (4), 577-590

Crucianelli, L. and Filippetti, ML., (2018). Developmental perspectives on interpersonal affective touch. Topoi, 1-12

Panagiotopoulou, E., Filippetti, ML., Gentsch, A. and Fotopoulou, A., (2018). Dissociable sources of erogeneity in social touch: Imagining and perceiving C-Tactile optimal touch in erogenous zones. PLoS ONE. 13 (8)

Filippetti, ML. and Tsakiris, M., (2017). Heartfelt embodiment: Changes in body-ownership and self-identification produce distinct changes in interoceptive accuracy. Cognition. 159, 1-10

Panagiotopoulou, E., Filippetti, ML., Tsakiris, M. and Fotopoulou, A., (2017). Affective touch enhances self-face recognition during multisensory integration. Scientific Reports. 7 (1)

Filippetti, ML., Farroni, T. and Johnson, MH., (2016). Five-Month-old Infants' Discrimination of Visual-Tactile Synchronous Facial Stimulation. Infant and Child Development. 25 (3), 317-322

Filippetti, ML., Lloyd-Fox, S., Longo, MR., Farroni, T. and Johnson, MH., (2015). Neural mechanisms of body awareness in infants. Cerebral Cortex. 25 (10), 3779-3787

Cole, JH., Filippetti, ML., Allin, MPG., Walshe, M., Nam, KW., Gutman, BA., Murray, RM., Rifkin, L., Thompson, PM. and Nosarti, C., (2015). Subregional hippocampal morphology and psychiatric outcome in adolescents who were born very preterm and at term. PLoS ONE. 10 (6), e0130094-e0130094

Filippetti, ML., (2015). What is special about our own face? Commentary: Tuning of temporo-occipital activity by frontal oscillations during virtual mirror exposure causes erroneous self-recognition. Frontiers in Psychology. 6 (OCT)

Filippetti, ML., Orioli, G., Johnson, MH. and Farroni, T., (2015). Newborn Body Perception: Sensitivity to Spatial Congruency. Infancy. 20 (4), 455-465

Filippetti, ML., Johnson, MH., Lloyd-Fox, S., Dragovic, D. and Farroni, T., (2013). Body perception in newborns. Current Biology. 23 (23), 2413-2416

+44 (0) 1206 873780


2.701, Colchester Campus

Academic support hours:

Please email me to book an appointment

More about me