Dr. Cedar Riener


  • Ph.D., University of Virginia, 2007
  • B.A., Harvard University, 1998


I have taught many courses in cognitive psychology, sensation and perception, as well as special topics first year seminars. These include: General Psychology, Systems and Theories of Contemporary Psychology (a history and philosophy of psychology course that serves as our senior capstone), Sensation and Perception, Cognitive Psychology, Research and Theoretical Systems in Sensation and Perception, the Psychology of Illusions, Kids These Days (an interdisciplinary first year seminar in psychology and English), and finally, Free Your Mind, Constrain Your Brain (a first year seminar on cognitive science).


My research includes both basic and applied research. My basic research focuses on how our body influences our perception of the basic layout of the natural world. When we see a distance or a hill, how is that perception affected by the energetic state of our body? A secondary area of research includes our intuitive understandings of physics concepts. How do we learn and understand basic physical principles? My applied research seeks to apply findings in cognitive science to K-12 educational settings. I also view my role as a scientist as including public scholarship. I accomplish this in several ways. First, I keep an active blog to share my professional activities with a broader audience, as well as comment on relevant issues in psychology, higher education and education reform. Second, I occasionally write more popular essays for other outlets. Thus far my work has been published in Educating Modern Learners, Scientific American, The Atlantic, and the Core Knowledge Blog. Third, I share the wonder of psychology in person, giving presentations to diverse audiences from third grade classrooms to corporate IT departments, to science cafe events in bars.


A critical but often unrecognized element of every professor’s life is service to their discipline, their department and their college. I have served as chair of the college’s Assessment Committee, as well as several committees to plan Randolph-Macon’s first year program offerings.

Representative Publications

Riener, C.R. & Stefanucci, J.K. (2014). Perception and/for/with/as action. In L. Shapiro (Ed) Routledge Handbook of Embodied Cognition. London: Routledge.

Riener, C.R., Stefanucci, J.K., Profffitt, D. & Clore, G. (2011). An effect of mood on the perception of geographical slant.  Cognition and Emotion, 25(1), 174-182.

Riener, C. R., Willingham D.B. (2010) The myth of learning styles. Change Magazine, 42(5), 32-35