07 September 2005

Mayer's Principles for the design of Multimedia Learning

The following is a summary of the information, principles and research findings presented by Richard E. Mayer on the 1 Sept 2005 at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. For further information on Mayer's work, please see the references at the end of this article.

People learn better when multimedia messages are designed
in ways that are consistent with how the human mind works
and with research-based principles

Research-Based Principles for the Design of Multimedia Messages

  • Multimedia principle: People learn better from words and pictures than from words alone.

Principles for managing essential processing

  • Segmenting principle: People learn better when a multimedia lesson is presented in learner-paced segments rather than as a continuous unit.
  • Pre-training principle: People learn better from a multimedia lesson when they know the names and characteristics of the main concepts.
  • Modality principle: People learn better from animation and narration than from animation and on-screen text.

Principles for reducing extraneous processing

  • Coherence principle: People learn better when extraneous words, pictures, and sounds are excluded rather than included.
  • Redundancy principle: People learn better from animation and narration than from animation, narration, and on on-screen text.
  • Signaling principle: People learn better when the words include cues about the organization of the presentation.
  • Spatial contiguity principle: People learn better when corresponding words and pictures are presented near rather than far from each other on the page or screen.
  • Temporal contiguity principle: People learn better when corresponding words and pictures are presented simultaneously rather than successively.

Principles based on social cues

  • Personalization principle: People learn better when the words are in conversational style rather than formal style.
  • Voice principle: People learn better when words are spoken in a standard-accented human voice than in a machine voice or foreign-accented human voice.
  • Image principle: People do not necessarily learn better from a multimedia lesson when the speaker’s image is added to the screen.

One last principle

  • Individual differences principle: Design effects are stronger for low-knowledge learners than for high-knowledge learners. Design effects are stronger for high-spatial learners than for low-spatial learners.


Mayer, R. E. (2001). Multimedia Learning
New York: Cambridge University Press.

Clark, R. C., & Mayer, R. E. (2003). E-learning and the Science of Instruction. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Mayer, R. E. (Ed.). (2005). The Cambridge Hanbook of Multimedia Learning. New York: Cambridge
University Press.

See also...


  1. Anonymous4:01 PM

    Thanks for the summary. I've been devouring all I can on design issues related to Powerpoint presentations and appreciated your concise summary. I'm giving my first presentation tomorrow where I try to use these theories. I think I need to finally read Mayer's book. I noted that a couple of your points referred to words with animation--do you mean moving pictures on a screen or a still graphic? Discussions on other blogs have summarized Mayer's results as relating to basic graphics with no mention of animation. Thanks again!

  2. Glad the summary was useful! Mayer has done some studies that deal only with still graphics, such as diagrams in textbooks, but he also has studies that deal specifically with animations, such as moving graphics that illustrate a process over time. It is with animation where he's found that narration becomes important. He has generally found that animation is more effective when there is a type of voice-over narration that explains what is happening as it happens. It's worth taking a look at one of his books to get more details.

    For powerpoint presentations, his findings may suggest that if you have an animation on a slide, explain it as your are showing it, rather than relying on a text explanation on the same slide. The text explanation and animation together are too much visual information for people to take in effectively. It also suggests, that if you're putting your slides online, an audio narration will probably be quite helpful. Good luck with the presentations!

  3. Check out Cliff Atkinson's Beyond Bullet Points (Microsoft Press). It also cites Mayer.

  4. Edward Tufte has been a leading critic of the limitations of PowerPoint. He also has provides some good guidelines to follow when presenting information visually. Beautiful evidence is a great book (heavily based on Mayer) - http://www.edwardtufte.com/tufte/

    With that said, the validity of Mayer's principles has come into question. You may want to explore Dr. Dwyer at PSU - http://www.ed.psu.edu/dwyer/visualresearch.htm

    Nice summary. Interesting topic

  5. Anonymous7:07 PM

    Hi, this information is really useful for e-teachers to be a guildance. May I ask that the source is from "Clark, R. C., & Mayer, R. E. (2003). E-learning and the Science of Instruction. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass."? I need this citation.Thank you for your help.

  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  7. I wanted to learn Mayer's principles for design of Multimedia learning, I have hard a lot of excellent things about this and I want to give it a try, thank you for the post!

  8. I am very much interested in multimedia and i am looking forward to learn it so as to make my future better

  9. I appreciate your summary it is very helpful. I am studying Mayers 'ELearning and the science of instruction. The last few comments were regarding powerpoint. I am currently working on the application of Mayer's Principles with Adobe Flash. I am struggling a bit in learning Flash. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

  10. Thanks Elaine. Yeah Flash is a complex program and not exactly intuitive, but its liberating when you get the hang of it. I can tell you that I find the tutorials on Lynda.com to be an excellent way of learning. I use them all the time to learn new things and to keep up with changes. (ps. I like your zen poem)

  11. So far, I managed to go though only some of the posts you have here, but I find them very interesting and informative. Just want say thank you for the information you have shared.

  12. Elisha- I have been studying Mayers multimedia principles and i haven't come across a summary that makes it simpler as this blog.I like it.But please would you also saying something about video from Mayers principles?

  13. Thanks Elisha.
    I haven't yet come across Mayer's findings regarding video, but I am aware he has a number of new publications that I need to catch up with. I'll be sure to post on those once I do. There's an interesting paper by Schwartz and Hartman on video that you might be interested in titled: "It is not television anymore: Designing digital video for learning and assessment"

  14. Great summary, this is all so practical and helpful. I'm keen to check out Dr. Dwyer at PSU to see if any of the principles have been refuted!

  15. well we all must read this principles..great idea.

  16. Every one have 2port
    2- eyes
    2- ears
    than multimedia support of them i one time.

  17. Thanks for providing such a great article, it was excellent and very informative.
    as a first time visitor to your blog I am very impressed.
    thank you :)

  18. Thank you as well for your summary, Dorian. A good starting point for sure!