Corey Cusimano


Mission Statement: Living among others requires evaluating and regulating minds. Social life involves debating others’ beliefs, offering sympathy or tough love in response to others’ emotions, and encouraging or questioning others’ goals. We likewise confront our own beliefs, desires, and feelings as we navigate disagreements, resist temptation, and seek out therapy or social support. For these reasons, understanding everyday decision making requires understanding how people evaluate mental states, including how they determine whether those states are rational, whether they can change, and who is responsible for them. I study these problems by integrating insights from cognitive science, moral philosophy, and epistemology in order to advance psychological theory and improve decision making.

Most recent, important paper

Right now, my main line of work concerns everyday belief evaluation. My recent paper, Reconciling scientific and commonsense values to improve reasoning, provides a short review of this work. show abstract hide abstract.

Overview of research

I research the social aspects of metacognition, including how people evaluate their own and others’ beliefs and emotions, and how these evaluations affect judgment and decision making.

In one line of work, I study the lay ethics of belief - that is, the norms that people use to evaluate their own and others' beliefs. I have found that people do not always treat objective, evidence-based reasoning as the most justified way to form beliefs. Instead, people sometimes treat the moral quality of a belief, such as whether the belief is respectful or helpful, as a consideration that ought to bias reasoning. I recently built on this finding to demonstrate that people intentionally engage in morally-motivated reasoning, display awareness that they are doing so, and affirm their motivated reasoning as how they ought to reason (2021, Job Market Paper). In light of this work, I have outlined a research agenda for identifying errors that lead people to devalue objectivity and evidence-based reasoning. I have argued that psychologists can target these errors to change people’s standards of reasoning which in turn can encourage more actively open-minded thinking.

In my other line of work, I study people’s implicit theories of reasoning, and in particular, judgments about when and how others can change their minds. I have shown that people blame others for their beliefs and emotions because they often think that others have voluntary control over those states. I have applied this work to understand a wide range of behavior, including the conceptual foundations of moral responsibility, how people judge whether someone has been coerced or manipulated, and how people react to others’ emotions. However, people’s tendency to think that others can change their thoughts and feelings is itself subject to biases and limitations. People think that irrational people can more easily change their minds than rational people (Working paper), and because people have difficulty adopting others’ perspectives, they believe that others can change their minds more easily than they, themselves can.