Mayer's 12 Principles of Multimedia

14 August 2021

Multimedia refers to an array of media types such as text, images, audio and video content, and is used to convey meaning and enhance learning experiences. Here are Mayer’s 12 Principles of Multimedia to help you create interactive, engaging and memorable digital learning experiences.

Principles that reduce extraneous load

(Or the cognitive effort wasted on content that doesn’t support the learning goals.)

1. The Coherence Principle

Coherence Principle

Extraneous information, such as decorative images or additional information that’s unrelated to the learning objectives, can distract from learning. Include only the necessary information and visuals that support the learning goals.

2. The Signaling Principle

Signaling Principle

People learn better when they’re guided through multiple pieces of information on screen. Direct their attention to the relevant concepts as the video progresses by highlighting key words or using arrows.

3. The Redundancy Principle

Redundancy Principle

Adding narration, visuals and text all at once can be overwhelming for learners and distracts them from the main message. It splits their attention across viewing graphics and reading text, as well as finding discrepancies between narration and text. Rather include only narration and visuals. If adding text, use it sparingly and avoid reading long sentences off the screen.

4. The Spatial Contiguity Principle

Spatial Contiguity Principle

Setting correlating words and visuals far apart on screen adds to the cognitive load. Show related words and visuals close together so the connection is more easily made. For example, when referring to parts of a diagram, make sure the labels are placed near to the relevant section.

5. The Temporal Contiguity Principle

Temporal Contiguity Principle

People learn best when the narration and its corresponding animation are played at the same time, rather than one after the other. Time your animations to match the voiceover narration.

Principles that manage intrinsic load

(Or the cognitive effort required to understand and commit basic and complex concepts to your working memory. The more closely connected the concepts, the easier it is to do this.

1. The Segmenting Principle

Segmenting Principle

People learn best when the multimedia content is segmented, rather than continuous, and when the lesson is self-paced. Chunk the learning material coherently and include customisable video settings that allow for learners to navigate the material on their own.

2. The Pre-Training Principle

Pre-Training Principle

People learn best when they have some knowledge of concepts and tools before beginning the multimedia lesson. That way they have the capacity to handle more complex topics and processes. Introduce learners to key terms and definitions before they learn about a new process in the multimedia lesson.

3. The Modality Principle

Modality Principle

People learn better from a combination of pictures and narration, rather than pictures and on-screen text. As much as possible, include spoken words and visuals only. This helps with what Mayer calls “modality offloading”, as it shares the cognitive load across the learners’ visual and verbal channels instead of overwhelming the visual channel alone.

Principles that enhance germane load

(Or the cognitive effort required to understand and commit the learning into your long-term memory.)

1. The Multimedia Principle

<img src=”https://res.cloudinary.com/elevatelearning/image/upload/c_scale,w_110/v1652430372/site-articles/mayers-twelve-principles-of-multimedia/mayers-principles-of-multimedia-multimedia_o0fwc7.png” alt=“Multimedia Principle” title=“Multimedia Principle class=“img-left”/>

People learn best when they see visuals and hear narration, rather than when they only listen to narration or only read text on-screen without any visuals. Include images in your multimedia that align with and clarify the narrated message, rather than functioning as purely decorative.

2. The Personalisation Principle

Personalisation Principle

Formal, overly academic language can limit understanding. Keep language conversational by using personal pronouns and matching the tone of your audience. This not only helps comprehension, but improves the learners’ engagement with the content.

3. The Voice Principle

Voice Principle

People learn best when listening to a human voice. Narration should be recorded by a human and not a computer so that the experience is more personable.

4. The Image Principle

Image Principle

Including a video of the speaker on screen doesn’t necessarily improve learning. Rather include relevant visuals or text on screen to enhance the learning experience.


Pasqua Lawrenson

Written by Pasqua Lawrenson
Learning Experience Design Specialist
 elevatelearnhq

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