Simon Cullen. 161 Baker Hall, Department of Philosophy. Carnegie Mellon University. 5000 Forbes Avenue. Pittsburgh, PA. 15213-3890.

my last name at cmu dot edu


Assistant Professor. Department of Philosophy, Carnegie Mellon University. 2018-

Postdoctoral Research Associate. Princeton Neuroscience Institute. 2017-18.

Postdoctoral Research Fellow. Department of Philosophy, Princeton University. 2015-17.


Doctor of Philosophy (Princeton University; 2015).

Master of Arts (Princeton University; 2012).

Bachelor of Arts with dual First-Class Honors in Philosophy and in History and Philosophy of Science; majors in Logic, Philosophy, and Philosophy of Science (The University of Melbourne; 2007).

Research and teaching

For an overview of some of my current research, see Projects. I share tools for helping students improve at analytical reading and reasoning, and materials for instructors interested in incorporating argument visualization into their classes, on the Teaching page of this site and on Philosophy Mapped.

Areas of Specialization

Psychology of Reasoning. Philosophy of Psychology. Ethics, especially Moral Psychology and Metaethics.

Areas of Competence

Applied Ethics. Philosophy of Language. Philosophy of Mind. General Philosophy of Science. Metaphysics & Epistemology. Logic, especially philosophical logic.


Cullen, S. (2018). When do circumstances excuse? Moral prejudices and beliefs about the true self drive preferences for agency-minimizing explanations. Cognition, 180, 165-181. (Covered by Denise Valenti in How we explain the behavior of others depends on our beliefs about their ‘true selves’.)

Lerner, A., Cullen, S., & Leslie, S (eds). (2020). Current Controversies in Philosophy of Cognitive Science. Routledge.

Cullen, S., Fan, J., van der Brugge, E., & Elga, A. (2018). Improving analytical reasoning and argument understanding: a quasi-experimental field study of argument visualization. Nature, Science of Learning, 3(1), 21. (Ranked in the 96th percentile of articles of a similar age by AltMetric.)

Cullen, S. (2017). The True Self and The Situation. The International Cognition and Culture Institute

Cullen, S. (2010). Survey-driven romanticism. Review of Philosophy and Psychology, 1(2), 275-296. (Cited around 200 times; ranked 49th among “papers listed under the category ‘Philosophy’ in Google Scholar metrics,” 2009-2013.)

In progress

Cullen, S., Chapkovski, P., Byrd, N., & Thomason, T. Measuring reasoning and eliciting concepts using multiplayer discussion-based games.

Cullen, S., Byrd, N., & Dasgupta, S. Do nations have essences? Attribution and responsibility for national actions.

Cullen, S., Oppenheimer, D., Byrd, N. Visualization and value: Visual argument presentation reduces biased reasoning but only when arguments appeal to shared moral values.

Cullen, S. Automated discussion markets improve group problem solving and decision making.

Cullen, S., Oppenheimer, D. Promote student autonomy to improve motivation and learning.

Cullen, S., Philosophy for STEM-focused students: Reducing the harm of coercive incentives in the classroom.

Cullen, S., & Isaacs, Y. Arbitrary Self.

Byrd, N., & Cullen. Reflection-Philosophy Order Effects and Correlations: Comparing results from mTurk, CloudResearch, Prolific, and undergraduate samples.

Honors and awards

Intelligence Community Postdoctoral Research Advisor for Nick DiBella. (2022-24).

Carnegie Mellon University Falk Grant for Research in the Humanities (2022).

Intelligence Community Postdoctoral Research Advisor for Nick Byrd. (2020-22).

Carnegie Mellon University Falk Grant for Research in the Humanities (2019).

University Council on Science and Technology Research Grant (with Judth Fan; 2017-18).

Program in Cognitive Science Grant (with Judith Fan; 2016-17).

Center for Human Values (special grant; 2015-16).

Graduate School Award for Excellence in Teaching (2014).

250th Anniversary Fund for Innovation in Undergraduate Education (with Adam Elga; 2013).

Cotsen-Graduate Fellow in Philosophy (2011-12).

Princeton University Fellowship (2009-14).

Australian Postgraduate Award (2008-9).

Dwight Final Examination Prize for “The highest score in the final assessment of the degree of Bachelor of Arts degree with Honors” (2007).

Dwight Prize in History and Philosophy of Science for “The highest final score in History and Philosophy of Science” Honors Degree (2007).

First Prize in Monash University Philosophy Essay Competition (open to Australasia; 2007).

Honors Scholarship (awarded to the student with the highest score in the Bachelor of Arts entering Honors; 2006).

Melbourne Abroad Scholarship (for study abroad at UC Berkeley; 2005-6).

Faculty of Arts Dean’s Award (2004).

Selected presentations

Thinking Alone and Together: Crowdsourcing discussions to investigate reasoning and persuasion. The Reasoning Lab @ U.S. Naval Research Laboratory. 2022.

Visualization and the language of value: Visual argument presentation and appeal to shared values improves argument evaluation among partisans. Center for Informed Democracy & Social-cybersecurity. 2022.

Promoting autonomy improves motivation and learning (with Danny Oppenheimer). CMU Teaching Summit. 2021.

Measuring the development of students' reasoning abilities: Causal inference from non-experimental data. Harvard/ThinkerAnalytix teaching workshop. 2020.

Eliciting concepts using multiplayer discussion-based games. Machery Lab, University of Pittsburgh. 2019.

Are we hearing the best ideas at the table? TEDxPrincetonU. 2018.

Using controlled reasoning to escape the echo chamber. Cohen Lab, Princeton Neuroscience Institute. 2017.

“What’s the point of getting so much reading since nobody reads all of it and also nobody really knows what they're reading?”* Princeton University Philosophy Department Colloquium. 2017. (*Title from anonymous-student feedback.)

The essence of the United States: folk attributions for national actions (with Shamik Dasgupta). Lombrozo Lab, University of California, Berkeley. 2017; Knobe Lab, Yale University. 2015.

Disunity of value. Princeton University Forum on Human Values. 2017.

A new puzzle of moral luck. Princeton University Forum on Human Values. 2017.

Improving analytical reasoning and open-mindedness using philosophical argument visualization. Carnegie Mellon University Philosophy Colloquium. 2016; CUNY Graduate Center, (co-sponsored by the Political Science and Philosophy programs, the Digital Initiatives Program, and the Teaching and Learning Center of NYC). 2016.

What’s bad about aging? Arguments for and against biological immortality. Envision. 2016.

Good deeds of passion and the unity of the vices: Valence modulates the effect of luck on judgments of responsibility. Princeton University Program in Cognitive Science Lunchtime Talk Series. 2016; Princeton University Cognitive Science Society. 2016.

When does an action express who you really are? Philosophy Colloquium, University of California, San Diego. 2015; Knobe Lab, Yale University. 2015; Princeton University Society for Cognitive Science (inaugural meeting). 2015; Princeton University Forum on Human Values. 2015.

Improving reasoning using argument visualization: results from the second year of a field study with freshmen and sophomores. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill workshop (sponsored by Geoffrey Sayre-Mccord). 2015; Rutgers University (teaching workshop). 2015.

Self-disclosure and attribution. New York University Experimental Philosophy of the Self. 2014.

You don’t have to be good to be good deep down. Forbes College. 2014.

Attribution and self-disclosure: the mismatch hypothesis. Princeton University Cognitive Science Lunchtime Talk Series. 2014.

Improving reasoning using argument visualization: a quasi-experimental field study with freshmen. Princeton University Philosophy Department Colloquium (with Adam Elga and Eva van der Brugge) 2014; McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning (with Adam Elga). 2014.

The Conceptometer: a futuristic methodology for conceptual analysis. Berlin School of Mind and Brain Institut für Philosophie Research Colloquium, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. 2014.

Improving analytical reading and reasoning. 6th International Technology, Education, and Development Conference (with Eva van der Brugge). 2014.

Improving analytical reasoning in the US Intelligence Community. George Mason University Decomposition-Based Aggregative Forecasting Workshop (with Neil Thomason). 2014.

Reference and semantic non-specificity. Princeton University Luce Series in Philosophy and Cognitive Science. 2014.

Legal positivism and methodological naturalism. Princeton University Workshop in Normative Philosophy. 2014.

Psychopathy and the origins of morality. Luce Series in Philosophy and Cognitive Science. 2011.

Reference: natural kind terms and mental models. Luce Series in Philosophy and Cognitive Science. 2011.

Mental models and semantic non-specificity. Luce Series in Philosophy and Cognitive Science. 2010.

Is water necessarily H2O? It depends on how you ask the question. Princeton University Philosophical Society. 2010.

Epistemology of experimental philosophy. Australasian Association of Philosophy Conference. 2008.


As primary instructor

Carnegie Mellon University:

  • "Dangerous Ideas in Science and Society." CMU Gen Ed.

  • "Philosophy, Science Fiction, War." Lectures, open to all students (with Mara Harrell).

  • "Visual Introduction to Philosophy." Lectures, open to all students.

  • "Moral Psychology: Ethics and Reinforcement Learning." Seminar, open to grad students and upper-level undergraduates.

  • "Ethical Theories." Seminar, focusing on moral nihilism and expressivism. Open to grad students and upper-level undergraduates.

  • "Introduction to Ethics." Lectures, open to all students.

  • Psychology Research Training (with Danny Oppenheimer).

  • Philosophy Research Training.

Princeton University:

  • "Philosophical Analysis using Argument Maps." Freshman seminar on various topics. Sole instructor, 2015-17, Peter T. Joseph ‘72 Freshman Seminar in Human Values; with Shamik Dasgupta, 2014; with Adam Elga, 2013. Covered by Merrell Noden in Princeton Alumni Weekly.

As co-advisor (with Sarah-Jane Leslie)

  • Vidushi Sharma, “Doubt Yourself! A case for partisan political rationality." 2016.

  • Claire Wang, "An Implementation of Automated Discussion Moderation." 2021.

  • Parker Felterman, "The Spectrum of Free Will and its Impact on the Individual." 2022

As assistant instructor

Princeton University:

  • "Introduction to Moral Philosophy." Primary instructor: Michael Smith. 2012.

  • "Metaphysics & Epistemology." Primary instructor: Gideon Rosen. 2010.

The University of Melbourne:

  • "Philosophical Issues." Primary instructors: Karen Jones and Francois Schroeter. 2008-9.

  • "Science, Philosophy, and History." Primary instructor: Neil Thomason. 2007-8.


  • Dietrich College Gen Ed Assessment Committee. (PI for a college-wide study of the development of students' analytical reasoning abilities).

  • ThinkerAnalytix Advisory Board.

  • Philosophy Graduate Admissions Committee. Carnegie Mellon University. 2021.

  • Reviewer for Journal of Cognitive Psychology, Frontiers in Psychology, Journal of Educational Psychology, Journal of Cognitive Development, Routledge, Review of Philosophy and Psychology, Ethical Theory and Practice, Decision, HackPrinceton.

  • Co-organizer (with David Danks), Models of Morality, Morality of Models. CMU. 2020. Recent years have seen an explosion of research into the empirical bases of human moral judgment along with a corresponding interest in formal and computational models of human morality. At the same time, AI and robotics researchers aim to develop systems that are themselves capable of moral judgment, and so require some model of morality. With this workshop, we hope to spur new and generative collaborations between researchers pursuing these two parallel lines of inquiry.

  • Co-organizer, Cognitive, Philosophical, and Neural Bases of Responsible Action. Department of Psychology & Princeton Neuroscience Institute. 2017. This conference is motivated by two complementary convictions: first, that the neuroscience of cognitive control should inform philosophical theorizing about agency and responsibility; and second, that such philosophical theorizing may help to guide psychological and neuroscientific inquiry and to interpret discoveries concerning the mechanisms underlying cognitive control. Thus, we aim to bring together psychologists, philosophers, and neuroscientists to explore how the science of cognitive and self-control might inform our understanding of ourselves as morally and legally responsible agents.