Don Perlis is a Professor Emeritus in the Department of Computer Science and a member of the university's Program in Neuroscience and Cognitive Science (NACS).

His research is mostly in artificial intelligence, including commonsense reasoning; flexible, domain-general, self-adjusting autonomous systems; and philosophical issues surrounding language, the mind and consciousness. The primary current thrust aims to test an ambitious "commonsense-core hypothesis"— that there is a modest number of general-purpose anomaly-handling strategies that humans use (and that machines can be programmed to use) which are sufficient to allow us to muddle through a multitude of daily situations for which we are not highly trained. This should then allow the development of robust and flexible autonomous systems that learn from their mistakes, rather than totally break down.

Perlis has given keynote lectures nationally and internationally, and has published more than 150 articles, some of which are among the most-cited in their respective journals.

He has doctorate degrees in mathematics from New York University and in computer science from the University of Rochester.


  • PhD
    Mathematics (1972) and Computer Science (1981)

I work in Artificial Intelligence, especially commonsense reasoning, with a focus on understanding mechanisms for dynamically noting and correcting errors (as is essential for agents interacting with reality in real time). Recent work combines that focus with natural-language processing, machine learning, and reasoning, and especially in the context of physical robotic agents. While applications abound, my main interest is in developing methods for better understanding the nature of mind and intelligent behavior, and thus it overlaps with much of cognitive science overall, and with philosophy of mind and language in particular.

Research Methods
Computational Modeling
Research Interests
Artificial Intelligence

Former Students

  • Student Name
    Jared Shamwell
Dr. Don Perlis
3253 A.V. Williams Building
Neuroscience and Cognitive Science
perlis [at]