Mayer’s 12 Principles of Multimedia Learning

Lauren Hays

Lauren Hays

December 14, 2021

In 2001, Mayer published the book Multimedia Learning where he identified 12 principles to use when engaging learners with multimedia. As librarians, each principle has implications for how we create digital content and engage with our stakeholders online. 

Below, I have included each principle* and then a simple application statement. 

1. Coherence Principle – People learn better when extraneous words, pictures and sounds are excluded rather than included.

Application: Keep content simple and to the point. 

2. Signaling Principle – People learn better when cues that highlight the organization of the essential material are added.

Application: To emphasize important content include arrows, use call-outs, and highlight. 

3. Redundancy Principle – People learn better from graphics and narration than from graphics, narration and on-screen text.

Application: Avoid including a lot of on-screen text and instead focus on images/graphics and audible narration. 

4. 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.

Application: Group related words and pictures. 

5.Temporal Contiguity Principle – People learn better when corresponding words and pictures are presented simultaneously rather than successively.

Application: Include related words and pictures on the same slide. 

6. Segmenting Principle – People learn better from a multimedia lesson that is presented in user-paced segments rather than as a continuous unit.

Application: Determine the best way to divide content and organize it in a logical manner. 

7. Pre-training Principle – People learn better from a multimedia lesson when they know the names and characteristics of the main concepts.

Application: Avoid introducing brand new concepts in a multimedia lesson. Instead, use multimedia lessons to build upon existing knowledge. 

8. Modality Principle – People learn better from graphics and narrations than from animation and on-screen text.

Application: Use images/graphics and audible narration. 

9. Multimedia Principle – People learn better from words and pictures than from words alone.

Application: Include both words and pictures. 

10. Personalization Principle – People learn better from multimedia lessons when words are in conversational style rather than formal style.

Application: Use accessible language.

11. Voice Principle – People learn better when the narration in multimedia lessons is spoken in a friendly human voice rather than a machine voice.

Application: Have a person narrate content. 

12. Image Principle – People do not necessarily learn better from a multimedia lesson when the speaker’s image is added to the screen.

Application: Include a speaker’s picture when you are trying to build connections with stakeholders, otherwise, it is not necessary. 

I hope you are able to apply these principles in your work as you develop tutorials and create digital content. 


Mayer, R. (2001). Multimedia learning. Cambridge University Press. 

*The language for each principle is from NYU.

Lauren Hays

Lauren Hays

Lauren Hays, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Instructional Technology at the University of Central Missouri, and a frequent speaker on topics related to libraries and librarianship. Her professional interests include information literacy, educational technology, library and information science education, teacher identity, and academic development. Please read Lauren’s other posts about skills for special librarians. And take a look at Lucidea’s powerful integrated library systems, SydneyEnterprise, and GeniePlus, used daily by innovative special librarians in libraries of all types, sizes and budgets. 

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