Mayer’s Multimedia Principles

The theory of multimedia learning is derived from the multimedia principle, MP (Mayer, 2019, p.43). MP asserts learners develop deeper understanding levels of knowledge when presented as words and pictures than that of words alone (Mayer, 2019, p.43). Meaningful learning requires information processing in working memory, which has a limited capacity. Knowledge transfer or storage in long term memory, LTE requires working memory storage to recall and integrate with new knowledge, which requires additional space.  

The cognitive capacity of a learner has three demands that influence the amount of storage in STE. To illustrate the three demands, STE will be compared to a cloud and the demands as moisture droplets. When working memory is overloaded, knowledge is released. When a cloud has too much moisture, it will rain. Clouds are essential to our atmosphere, carrying moisture to other locations to be integrated with different landscapes and environments. Essential processing, making mental representations of new knowledge, and generative processing, making sense of new knowledge, are essential in STE (Mayer, 2019, p.43) Extraneous processing is the moisture that causes knowledge to be released due to cognitive overload. Instructional designers must use multimedia and MP to eliminate extraneous knowledge while using words and pictures to manage essential processing and grow generative processing; as a result, organize and transfer knowledge to LTE (Mayer, 2019, p.43)

A multimedia instructional message’s design must demonstrate five cognitive processes in order to foster meaningful learning (Mayer, 2019, p.54) While there is not a hierarchical approach, learners must Select relevant words and pictures, construct models through the organization of words and pictures, and bridge the gap between verbal and pictorial models with prior knowledge (Mayer, 2019,p.54). Multimedia depicts words and images through the eyes and ears processed in sensory memory. The dual-channel approach illustrates knowledge processing through verbal or pictorial sensors. Designers need to generate that eye-catching presentation with great audio and visuals to foster self-directive learning; sensory memory is very brief. Designers must limit multimedia to relevant situational information for learners to manipulate and select incoming messages (Mayer, 2019, p.53) 

Mayer design elements of multimedia learning to outline how multimedia promotes an expert level of understanding. The twelve principles illustrate how learners process words and pictures based on structure, spatial, schematics, and humanizing social components. Out of the design tactics, the temporal contiguity principle stuck out to me the most. The temporal contiguity principle states that individuals learn better when words and pictures are presented simultaneously (Thais, 2019). This principle makes sense as spatial contiguity highlights the ability for a deeper understanding of words and pictures that are close in the spatial distance (Thais, 2019). A shape is presented on-screen with the name of a color written on the shape. The written color name does not correspond with the fill color of the shape showed simultaneously. If asked to read, the color printed metacognition forefronts traditional processing, resulting in the name of the fill color, not the name of the color. 

To further research on design characteristics of multimedia, I reviewed an article titled Cognitive Load in Interactive Knowledge Construction” from Learning and Instructions journal. In the article, the correlation between STE, and cognitive load when presented with hypermedia. Hypermedia, the learner, must filter information through navigation pages and selecting information among the links available (Verhoeven et al., 2009, p. 371). In this approach, compared to the web, instructional direction go against the signaling principle and the coherence principle (Thais, 2019). The use of knowledge on the internet does not eliminate any extraneous processing, nor did the instruction signal where learners should navigate. The capacity of STE is limited to the sensors that trigger dual channeling and process only selected images or text. In this example, prior researchers might classify this as a recipe for cognitive overload. The article highlighted the evolution of eye-tracking technology and human-computer interaction software to “test” a learner’s prior knowledge’s influence hypermedia cognitive capacity (Verhoeven et al., 2009, p. 374). 

Multimedia knowledge construction is depended on cognitive load. Three main conclusions were drawn from the assessment. Cognitive capacity is drive by prior personal knowledge, motivation, and perspective (Verhoeven et al., 2009, p. 374). Learning outcomes have a connection with mediated task demands (Verhoeven et al., 2009, p. 374). Lastly, meaningful learning is clearly related to interactivity, control, and collaboration (Verhoeven et al., 2009, p. 374). Adaptive instructional environments that possess task demands and support levels that are aligned with the level of understanding and capacity of the individual learner have a reduction in cognitive load (Verhoeven et al., 2009, p. 374).

In Conclusion, the twelve design elements crafted by Richard Mayer outline a successful connection with cognitive science and information processing. All instructional design projects start at assessing where to start the new knowledge. If the target audience has an expert level of understanding, navigation, signaling, or limiting words or pictures, coherence can be driven by metacognition. As demonstrated in the cognitive theory of multimedia learning, brief sensory triggers STE for further processing. For meaningful learning in hypermedia or the internet, navigation, and self-directed coherence eliminate cognitive load through prior knowledge. 


Thais. (2019, January 19). Richard Mayer on Multimedia Learning. Love for Learning – Craft your eLearning Solution.

Mayer, R. E. (2014). The Cambridge Handbook of Multimedia Learning (2nd ed.). Cambridge University Press

Verhoeven, L., Schnotz, W., & Paas, F. (2009). Cognitive load in Interactive Knowledge Construction. Learning and Instruction19(5), 369-375.