Richard Mayer

Richard Mayer

Distinguished Professor

Research Area

Cognition, Perception, and Cognitive Neuroscience


Richard E. Mayer is Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His research interests are in applying the science of learning to education, with current projects on multimedia learning, computer-supported learning, and computer games for learning. His research is at the intersection of cognition, instruction, and technology, with a focus on how to help people learn in ways so they can transfer what they have learned to new situations. He served as President of Division 15 (Educational Psychology) of the American Psychological Association and Vice President of the American Educational Research Association for Division C (Learning and Instruction). He is the winner of the Thorndike Award for career achievement in educational psychology, the Scribner Award for outstanding research in learning and instruction, and the American Psychological Association’s Distinguished Contribution of Applications of Psychology to Education and Training Award. He is ranked #1 as the most productive educational psychologist in the world in Contemporary Educational Psychology. He has served as Principal Investigator or co-PI on more than 30 grants, including recent grants from the Office of Naval Research to investigate how to improve the effectiveness of educational games, from the Institute of Education Sciences to investigate the effectiveness of features of an online tutoring system, and from the National Science Foundation to study students’ learning and problem-solving strategies. He is former editor of the Educational Psychologist and former co-editor of Instructional Science, and he serves on the editorial boards of 12 journals mainly in educational psychology. He is the author of more than 500 publications including 30 books, such as Learning as a Generative Activity (with L. Fiorella), Computer Games for Learning, Applying the Science of Learning, e-Learning and the Science of Instruction: Fourth Edition (with R. Clark), Multimedia Learning: Second Edition, Learning and Instruction: Second Edition, Handbook of Research on Learning and Instruction: Second Edition (co-editor with P. Alexander) and the Cambridge Handbook of Multimedia Learning: Second Edition (editor).


Dr. Mayer's main interest is in determining how people learn (i.e., the science of learning) and how to help people learn (i.e., the science of instruction). Dr. Mayer's research concerns the intersection of cognition, instruction, and technology, including: (1) multimedia learning, such as determining how people learn scientific explanations from computer-based animation, video, and narration; how illustrations affect how people learn from scientific text; or how people learn to solve problems from interactive simulations; (2) learning in computer-supported environments, such as how to improve learning with online pedagogical agents, with online intelligent tutoring systems, with mobile devices, and in virtual reality, and (3) computer games for learning, including determining factors that increase the effectiveness of educational games and examining whether playing computer games can cause improvements in cognitive and perceptual skills.

Dr. Mayer is concerned with how to present information in ways that help people understand, including how to use words and pictures to explain scientific and mathematical concepts. His research is motivated by the question, "How can we help people learn in ways that allow them to use what they have learned to solve new problems that they have never seen before?" Building on cognitive science theories of how people learn, he has developed a cognitive of theory of multimedia learning relevant to the design of on-line instruction. During the past two decades he and his colleagues have conducted over 100 experimental tests leading to 12 research-based principles for how to design on-line learning environments and computer-based games. He is now extending this work to the design of computer games for learning, and using social cues such as polite speech and gesture to increase learner motivation.

Current research grants from the Institute of Education Sciences, Office of Naval Research, and the National Science Foundation include studies investigating how people learn with on-line tutors in computer-based mathematics and science lessons, determining which features of educational games promote deep learning, determining the cognitive consequences of playing computer games, using eye-tracking methodology and cognitive neuroscience methodology to determine how people learn from multimedia lessons, and investigating how the gestures and voice of an on-screen pedagogical agent affect student learning from an online lesson. The unifying goal of these projects is to conduct methodologically rigorous studies that yield research-based principles of instructional design and contribute to cognitive science theories of how people learn.

Selected Publications

Selected Books

Mayer, R. E. (in press).  Multimedia learning (3rd ed).  New York: Cambridge University Press.

Plass, J., Mayer, R. E., & Homer, B. (Eds.). (2020).  Handbook of game-based learning.  Cambridge. MA: MIT Press.

Mayer, R. E. (2019).  How to be a successful student: 20 study habits based on the science of learning.  New York: Routledge.  

Mayer, R. E., & Alexander, P. A. (Eds.). (2017). Handbook of research on learning and instruction (2nd ed). New York: Routledge.

Clark, R. & Mayer, R. E. (2016). E-learning and the science of instruction (4th ed). San Francisco: Pfeiffer.

Fiorella, L., & Mayer, R. E. (2015). Learning as a generative activity: Eight learning strategies that promote understanding. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Mayer, R. E. (2014). Computer games for learning: An evidence-based approach. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Mayer, R. E. (Ed.) (2014). The Cambridge handbook of multimedia learning. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Mayer, R. E. (2011). Applying the science of learning. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Mayer, R. E. (2008). Learning and Instruction (2nd ed). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Selected Journal Articles

Parong, J., Wells, A., & Mayer, R. E. (in press).  Replicated evidence towards a cognitive theory of game-based training.  Journal of Educational Psychology. 

Li, W., Wang, F., Mayer, R.E., & Liu, H. (in press).  Getting the point: Which kinds of gestures by pedagogical agents improve multimedia learning?  Journal of Educational Psychology. 

Fiorella, L., Kuhlmann, S. L., Stull, A., & Mayer, R. E. (in press).  Fostering generative learning from video lessons: Benefits of instructor-generated drawings and learner-generated explanations.  Journal of Educational Psychology.

Stahovich, T., Gyllen, J., & Mayer, R. E. (in press).  Accuracy in judgments of study time predicts academic success in an engineering course.  Metacognition and Learning, 00, 000-000.

Lee, H., & Mayer, R. E. (in press).  Fostering learning from instructional video in a second language.  Applied Cognitive Psychology, 00, 000-000

James, K., & Mayer, R. E. (in press).  Learning a second language by playing a game.  Applied Cognitive Psychology, 00, 000-000.

Hellenbrand, J., Mayer, R. E., Opfermann, M., Schmeck, A., & Leutner, D. (in press).  How generative drawing affects the learning process: An eye-tracking analysis. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 00, 000-000.

Parong, J., & Mayer, R. E. (in press).  Cognitive consequences of playing brain training games in virtual reality.  Applied Cognitive Psychology, 00, 000-000.

Makransky, G., Borre-Gude, S., & Mayer, R. E. (in press).  Motivational and cognitive benefits of training in immersive virtual reality based on multiple assessments.  Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 00, 000-000. 

Xie, H., Wang, F., Mayer, R. E., & Zhou, Z.  (2019). Coordinating visual and auditory cueing in multimedia learning.  Journal of Educational Psychology, 111, 235-255.

Leopold, C., Mayer, R. E., & Dutke, S. (2019).  The power of imagination and perspective in learning from science text.  Journal of Educational Psychology, 111, 793-808.

Fiorella, L., Stull, A., Kuhlmann, S., & Mayer, R. E. (2019).  Instructor presence in video lectures: The role of dynamic drawings, eye contact, and instructor visibility.  Journal of Educational Psychology, 111, 1162-1171.

Makransky, G., Terkildsen, T. S., & Mayer, R. E. (2019).  Adding immersive virtual reality to a science lab simulation causes more presence but less learning.  Learning and Instruction, 60, 225-236.

Makransky, G., Terkildsen, T., & Mayer, R. E. (2019).  Role of subjective and objective measures of cognitive processing during learning in explaining the spatial contiguity effect.  Learning and Instruction, 61, 23-34.

Makransky, G., Wismer, P., & Mayer, R. E. (2019). A gender matching effect in learning with pedagogical agents in an immersive virtual reality science simulation.  Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 35(3), 349-358.

Mayer, R. E. (2019).  Computer games in education.  Annual Review of Psychology, 70, 531-549.

Mayer, R. E., Parong, J., & Bainbridge, K. (2019).  Young adults learning executive function skills by playing focused video games.  Cognitive Development, 49, 43-50.

Mayer, R. E. (2019).  Thirty years of research on online learning.  Applied Cognitive Psychology, 33, 152-159.

Mayer, R. E., Wells, A., Parong, J., & Howarth, J. (2019).  Learner control of the pacing of an online slideshow: Does segmenting help?  Applied Cognitive Psychology, 33, 930-935.

Huang, X., & Mayer, R. E. (2019).  Adding self-efficacy features to an online statistics lesson.  Journal of Educational Computing Research, 57, 1003-1037.

Homer, B. D., Ober, T. M., Rose, M. C., MacNamara, A., Mayer, R. E., & Plass, J. (2019).  Speed versus accuracy: Implications of adolescents' neurocognitive development in a digital game to train executive function.  Mind, Brain, and Education, 13(1), 41-52.

Stahovich, T., Van Arsdale, & Mayer, R. E. (2019).  How handwriting behaviors during problem solving are related to problem-solving success in an engineering course.  Contemporary Educational Psychology, 58, 331-337.

Wang, F., Li, W., Mayer, R. E., & Liu, H. (2018).  Animated pedagogical agents as aids in multimedia learning: Effects on eye-fixations during learning and learning outcomes.  Journal of Educational Psychology, 110, 250-268.

Parong, J., & Mayer, R. E. (2018).  Learning science in immersive virtual reality.  Journal of Educational Psychology, 110, 785-797.

Pilegard, C., & Mayer, R. E. (2018).  Game over for Tetris as a platform for cognitive skill training.  Contemporary Educational Psychology, 54, 29-41.

Mayer, R. E., Howarth, J., Kaplan, M., & Hanna, S. (2018).  Applying the segmenting principle to online geography lessons.  Educational Technology Research and Development, 66, 563-577. 

Bainbridge, K., & Mayer, R. E. (2018).  Shining the light of research on Lumosity.  Journal of Cognitive Enhancement, 2, 43-62

Ponce, H., Mayer, R. E., Figueroa, V. A., & Lopez, M. J.  (2018). Interactive highlighting for just-in-time assessment during whole-class instruction: Effects on vocabulary learning and reading comprehension.  Interactive Learning Environments, 26, 42-60. 

Stull, A., Fiorella, L., Gainer, M., & Mayer, R. E. (2018).  Using transparent whiteboards to boost learning from online STEM lectures.  Computers & Education, 20, 146-159.

Ponce, H. R., Mayer, R, E., Loyola, M. S., Lopez, M., & Mendez, E. E. (2018).  When two computer-supported learning strategies are better than one: An eye-tracking study.  Computers & Education, 125, 376-388.

Stull, A., Fiorella, L., & Mayer, R. E. (2018).  An eye-tracking analysis of instructor presence in video lectures.  Computers in Human Behavior, 88, 263-272.

Gyllen, J., Stahovich, T., & Mayer, R. E. (2018).  How students read an e-textbook in an engineering course.  Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 34, 701-712.

Ponce, H., Mayer, R. E., Lopez, M. J., & Loyola, M. S. (2018).  Adding interactive graphic organizers to a whole-class slideshow lesson.  Instructional Science, 46(6), 973-988.

Bediou, B., Adams, D. M., Mayer, R. E., Tipton, E., Green, C. S., & Bavelier, D. (2018).  Meta-analysis of action video game impact on perceptual, attentional, and cognitive skills.  Psychological Bulletin, 144(1), 77-110. 

Rawson, K., Stahovich, T. F., & Mayer, R. E. (2017).  Homework and achievement: Using smartpen technology to find the connection.  Journal of Educational Psychology, 109, 208-219.

Fiorella, L., van Gog, T., Hoogerheide, V., & Mayer, R. E. (2017).  It’s all a matter of perspective: Viewing first-person video modeling examples promotes learning of an assembly task.  Journal of Educational Psychology, 109, 653-665.

Fiorella, L., & Mayer, R. E. (2017).  Spontaneous spatial strategies in learning from scientific text.  Contemporary Educational Psychology, 49 66-79.

Parong, J., Mayer, R. E., Fiorella, L., MacNamara, A., Plass, J., & Homer, B.  (2017). Learning executive function skills by playing focused video games. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 51, 141-151.

McLaren, B. M., Adams, D., Mayer, R., Forlizzi, J. (2017).  Decimal point: An educational game that benefits mathematics learning more than a conventional approach.  International Journal of Game-Based Learning, 7(1), 36-56.

Mayer, R. E., Christofferson, R., & Fiorella, L. (2017).  Enhancing undergraduate success in biology through the Biomentors Program.  American Biology Teacher, 79(1), 25-29.

Mayer, R. E. (2017). Using multimedia for e-learning.  Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 33, 403-423.

Mayer, R.  E. (2017).  How can brain research inform academic learning and instruction?  Educational Psychology Review, 29, 835-846.