Summarized Biography

Raffaele Calabretta                         Born: May 26th, 1963 (Satriano, CZ, Italy)

Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies, Italian National Research Council (CNR) 
Via S. Martino della Battaglia 44, 00185, Roma, Italy 

Phone: (+39)-06-44595 227 Fax : (+39)-06-44595 243 www:


Blog Doparie Press (in Italian). Facebook: here and here. Twitter (in Italian)



Raffaele Calabretta has been a permanent researcher of the Italian National Research Council since 1988 and, from 2002 to 2008, held the position of a member of the Institute Committee of the Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies (former Institute of Psychology) of the Italian National Research Council in Rome. Starting from September 2016, he has been an Associate Professor of Psychology of Communication (International Telematic University UNINETTUNO, Rome).

From 2000 to 2004, he was a Professor of Educational Technologies at University of L'Aquila Faculty of Educational Science. From 1998 to 2002, he was a member of the Center of Computational Ecology (Yale University), and since 2001 he has been an affiliate of the New England Complex Systems Institute (Cambridge, MA). In 1997 he spent one sabbatical year as post-doctoral fellow at Yale University Department of Biology; in 2000 and 2002 he went back to Yale as visiting fellow at the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and of Psychology, and in 2010 as visiting scholar at the Department of Psychology. He worked with Gunter Wagner (founding chair of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology) and Frank Keil (Faculty of Psychology, editor of The MIT Encyclopedia of Cognitive Sciences, MIT Press, 1999). In 2012 he was a visiting scholar at Stanford University in the Department of Communication, collaborating with James Fishkin (see Fishkin & Calabretta, 2012), who is the Director of the Center for Deliverative Democracy and the developer of Deliberative Polling. In the spring of 2016 Calabretta returned to Stanford as a Visiting Scholar, and participated in and assisted with the organization of the first Deliberative Poll to be conducted among Stanford students in the campus.

He works in a relatively new research field, which is named Artificial Life. The main goal of this kind of research is the simulation and synthesis of living systems into a computer in order to understand "life as it is" and "life as it could be" (Langton, 1989). His current interest is in simulating evolution of body and brain/mind modularity in complex organisms by means of artificial neural networks and genetic algorithms (Calabretta & Neirotti, 2015;Calabretta, Di Ferdinando, Parisi & Keil, 2008; Calabretta, 2007; Calabretta, Di Ferdinando & Parisi, 2004).

More recent research interests are experimental narrative as educational tool and intra-party democracy (see below).

During these years, Calabretta has published more than 60 papers, has presented his research at more than 50 conferences, workshops and presentations. Calabretta's research was several times featured in national newspapers and in RAI, Italian Public Television (for example, see here and here).

He has delivered, as an invited speaker, series of lectures on topics ranging from evolution, learning and development to evolution of generalization in cognitive tasks. His papers have been cited (see citations on Google Scholar) in journals such as Nature, Science, Artificial Life, Cognition, Cognitive Science, Trend in Cognitive Sciences, The American Naturalist, Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and in book such as "Phenotypic Integration: Studying the Ecology and Evolution of Complex Phenotypes" (Oxford University Press), "Evolutionary Robotics" (MIT Press), "Evolutionary Ethics and Contemporary Biology" (Cambridge University Press), "Principles of Brain Evolution" (Sinuaer), "Reviewing Linguistic Thought: Converging Trends for the 21st Century" (Press e Mouton), "Philosophy of Biology" (Elsevier).

Recently Jose' B. Pereira-Leal and Sarah A. Teichmann of the "Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Structural Studies Division" at Cambridge University (the so called laboratory of Nobel laureates), provided strong support for Calabretta et al.'s (2000) hypothesis on the evolution of modularity:

"Duplication of modules has been shown to be an efficient mechanism for the generation of functional innovation in the field of artificial intelligence, but has not been studied in biological networks. Therefore, we ask whether module duplication occurs in cellular networks. We developed a generic framework for the analysis of module duplication, and use it in a large-scale analysis of Saccharomyces cerevisiae protein complexes. [...] The mechanisms that underlie the evolution of functional modules are largely unknown. Theoretical simulations in neural networks have shown that duplication and specialization of en-tire modules is an effective mode of network growth (Calabretta et al. 1998, 2000). [...] These results strongly support the view that complex duplication is a mechanism by which evolution generates functional specialization. This extends what has been found previously for duplication of individual genes (Prince and Pickett 2002), and is in agreement with the behavior of artificial systems such as neural networks (Calabretta et al. 2000)" (Pereira-Leal & Teichnmann, 2006, pp. 552 and 557).

Other simulation results, for the first time, revealed the existence of genetic interference, a new population genetic mechanism that is independent from the network architecture. Our simulations clearly show that genetic interference reduces the evolvability of visual neural networks and that sexual reproduction can at least partially solve the problem of genetic interference. It was shown that entrusting the task of finding the neural network architecture to evolution and that of finding the network connection weights to learning is a way to completely avoid the problem of genetic interference. On the basis of this evidence, it is possible to formulate a new hypothesis on the origin of structural modularity, and thus to overcome the traditional dichotomy between innatist and empiricist theories of mind (see Calabretta, 2007). 

Calabretta has been several times invited Program Committee Member for various international conferences, such as the International Conference on Artificial Life, and the International Conference on the Simulation of Adaptive behavior. He has been invited as keynote, plenary or guest speaker to numerous conferences and professional gatherings nationwide and in more than 10 countries. He has been invited to give seminars for Italian Accademia dei Lincei, Unesco, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology of Zurich, Konrad Lorenz Institute in Vienna, New England Complex Institute at Cambridge (MA), University of California at Los Angeles, Santa Fe Institute, Yale University, Royal Society.

He was the co-chair and editor of the Proceedings of the Ninth International Conference on Simulation of Adaptive Behaviour (Springer Verlag, Berlin).

His current research interests are in simulating the evolution of modularity in complex organisms by means of artificial neural networks as computational models of the brain and of genetic algorithms as computational models of evolution, and in using simulations and experimental science-in-fiction novels as educational tools. His research activity also concerns the utilization of  Artificial Life simulations and software for the development of multimedia applications in the field of education (Calabretta, 1996; in Italian). He collaborates with Rai Educational, Italian Public Television. 

He was scientific coordinator of the Italy-USA bilateral project "Evolutionary mechanisms for the origin of modular design in artificial neural networks", and of the Short-Term Mobility Program Italy-USA "Evolution of What and Where visual task in modular and non modular neural networks", both supported by the Italian National Research Council. He participates to several Research European Projects such as Swarmanoid project (IST-022888), Future and Emerging Technologies (FET-OPEN) (, ECAgents: Embodied and Communicating Agents (, Future and Emerging Technologies program of the European Community, Swarm-bots: Swarms of Self-Assembling Artifacts (IST-2000-31010), V Framework Programmeā€¯ (, Future and Emerging Technologies program. He is coordinator of the innovative research project "Movies as education: make movies and fiction in order to training emotions". From January to May 2004, he was invited to participated to the Italian most important training course for screenwriters, organized by RAI, the Italian Public Television.

He is the author of the structural science-in-fiction novel on emotions "Il film delle emozioni" ('The movie of emotions', in Italian; publisher: Gaffi, 2007, second edition). In Italy the book has been successful: it was very well received by critics and readers (e.g., <<It's very difficult to insert scientific content in novels. You was able to>>, Cormac McCarthy, 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction), and was featured in major magazines, newspapers and television shows nationally. In spite of more ten thousands of persons that downloaded the book for free (to download the book, click here), the first edition was sold out and very recently the second edition was published. The book has also been adopted for use in classes at several Italian universities. According to the critics, it is a very original book. A well-know Italian literary critic, Filippo La Porta defined the book as "an essay on emotions in the form of a novel. A happily experimental novel". It is borderline literature that mixes registers and genres: the novel, the movie script, a scientific paper. Further, the novel's structure conveys scientific theories (e.g., complex systems theory) and research results (his research work on the evolution of modularity). See Calabretta's paper on the journal Biological Theory (2010).

Raffaele Calabretta is the inventor of "Doparie", a novel intra-party participatory and deliberative decision-making mechanism. They are procedures similar to primaries that are done, during the period between an election and another, for taking party crucial and controversial decisions. In 2010, he published the book "Doparie, dopo le primarie" (Nutrimenti, in Italian), a novel/essay in which he presents the proposal, and in 2011 the first scientific paper about doparie. In the first five months of 2012, he and collaborators (researchers of Harvard Kennedy School of Government and of MIT) conducted the first experiment of online doparia (see Klein, Spada & Calabretta, 2012; see also here).

He is the founder and organizer of the Darwinian Tea, an interdisciplinary series of seminars on the evolution of cognitive structures and abilities, and the founder of the web site "The Modularity Home Page", the second site after Wikipedia that you obtain as a Google search using as the key word "modularity" (February 2009).


[here you will find the list of my scientific publications (most of all are available on line);
here you will find the citations received by my papers]

Raffaele Calabretta

Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies
Italian National Research Council, Rome, Italy 

 Last modified: 12/13/16