Bruce Homer

Headshot for the Educational Psychology program

Research Interests

  • literacy
  • language and cognition
  • cognitive development
  • theory of mind
  • computer-based multimedia learning


  • Ph.D., University of Toronto

Statement of Research

Dr. Homer is a Professor of Educational Psychology in the Learning, Development and Instruction subprogram. He is the director of the Child Interactive Learning and Development (CHILD) Lab at the Graduate Center. His research examines how children acquire and use "cultural tools" to store and transmit knowledge (e.g., language, literacy, and information technologies), and how these tools transform developmental and learning processes. Of particular interest is how development and learning affect the ways in which mental representations are formed. Dr. Homer has a number of currently active lines of research that are briefly outlined below.

Multimedia Learning Environments

As part of the Molecules and Minds project, with Catherine Milne, Jan Plass and Trace Jordan, Dr. Homer has been researching the use of computer-based multimedia environments for learning. His work in this area investigates how cognitive abilities and prior knowledge affect students' interactions with and learning from multimedia environments. As part of this project, Dr. Homer and his colleagues have developed and tested computer-based simulations for teaching chemistry to a variety of learners, but particularly low-income, urban students with low prior knowledge in science and technology. An approach that has proven effective is the integration of iconic representation of key information into the simulations. The Molecules and Minds team was awarded a new three-year grant from the Institute of Educational Sciences to continue this research.

Recent Sample Publications:

Plass, J.L, Milne, C., Homer, B.D., Schwartz, R.N.**, Hayward, E.,O.*, Jordan, T., Verkuilen, J., Ng, F., Wang, Y.** & Barrientos, J. (2012). Investigating the Effectiveness of Computer Simulations for Chemistry Learning. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 49, 394-419.

Homer, B. D. & Plass, J.L. (2010). Expertise Reversal for Iconic Representations in Science Visualizations. Instructional Science, 38, 259-276.

Homer, B.D., Plass, J.L., & Blake, L. (2008). The effects of video on cognitive load and social presence in computer-based multimedia-learning. Computers in Human Behavior, 24(3), 786-797.

Videogames for Learning

A second area of research is on the development and use of videogames for learning. In this new line of work, Dr. Homer and his collaborators have been investigating how different design patterns in games affect student learning and motivation. They have also been researching ways of embedding assessment into educational games to provide to students and educators. This work is primarily conducted as part of the Games for Learning Institute, an interdisciplinary, cross-university research institute funded by Microsoft Research.

Recent Sample Publications:

Homer, B.D., Hayward, E.O, Frye, J. & Plass, J.L. (in press). Gender and Player Characteristics in Video Game Play of Preadolescents. Computers in Human Behavior.

Plass, J.L., Homer, B.D., Milne, C., Jordan, T., Kalyuga, S., Kim, M., & Lee, H.J. (in press), Design Factors for Effective Science Simulations: Representation of Information. In M. Killian (Ed.), Discoveries in Gaming and Computer-Mediated Simulations: New Interdisciplinary Applications. Hershey, PA: IGI Global. (Reprinted from International Journal of Gaming and Computer-Mediated Simulations, 1(1), 16–35).

Language, Cognition & Symbolic Understanding

A third area of research investigates the role of spoken and written language on children's cognitive development. Recently, Dr. Homer and his students have been investigating the role of language in young children's development of symbolic understanding. Other related research includes studies on the relation between literacy and children's understanding of language, and research on cultural and biological influences on children and adults' theory of mind.

Recent Sample Publications:

Homer, B.D., Petroff, N.* & Hayward, E.O.* (in press). Linguistic Mediation of Children’s Performance in a New Symbolic Understanding Task. Journal of Cognition and Development.

Homer, B.D. & Nelson, K.N. (2009). Symbols, signs and models: Language and the development of dual representation. Journal of Cognition and Development, 10, 115-134.

Homer, B.D. (2009). Literacy and Metalinguistic Development. In D.R. Olson & N. Torrance (Eds.) The Cambridge Handbook of Literacy (pp. 487-500). Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.

Homer, B.D., Solomon, T.M., Moeller, R.W., Macia, A., DeRaleau, L. & Halkitis, P.N. (2008). Methamphetamine Abuse and Impairment of Social Functioning: A Review of the Underlying Neurophysiological Causes and Behavioral Implications. Psychological Bulletin, 134(2), 301-310.

Courses Taught:

Cognitive Development and Learning Processes in Education
Language and Communication Development
Seminar in Communication and Cognitive Development
Advanced Seminar in Communication and Cognitive Development

Upcoming and Recent Talks:

Homer, B.D., Hayward, E.O. & Plass, J.L. (2012, June). Gender and play characteristics in video game play. Paper to be presented at the annual meeting of the Jean Piaget Society, Toronto, ON, CANADA.

Homer, B.D. & Blumberg, F. (2012, April). Digital video game play in children’s learning and cognitive development. Symposium presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Vancouver, BC, Canada.

Homer, B.D. (2012, March). Pictures, Sounds, Actions: Effects of Media in Learning. In Robbins, S., Can a Video Teach You to Cook? Symposium presented at the annual meeting of the International Association of Culinary Professionals, New York, NY.

Video Archives:

Google Tech Talk: Video Games and the Future of Learning

Dr. Homer participated in a panel with other members of the Games for Learning Institute to discuss Utilizing Digital games for Learning as part of the Washington Education Innovation Forums.  

Homer, B.D. (2010, January). Spatial Cognition: The psychology of eye-tracking. Paper presented as part of a public forum sponsored by the Guggenheim Museum on eyetracking and the work of Kandinsky, Adrienne Klein & Grahame Weinbren (moderators).