Mayer, R. E. (2014). Incorporating motivation into multimedia learning. Learning and Instruction, 29, 171-173.


Multimedia Instruction encompasses a wide array of strategies including the use of computer-based lessons with animation and narration, using textbooks with text and illustrations, and slide presentations that contain spoken words and graphics. The cognitive theory of multimedia learning is broken down into three processes: extraneous, essential, and generative. There are three instructional design goals that encompass these processes. The goals are to manage essential processing, foster generative processing, and reducing extraneous processing. Many theories of multimedia learning focus on cognitive processes rather than the motivation for this type of instruction. Motivation, which falls under the generative processing part, is an understudied concept in relation to multimedia instruction. Generative processing includes the level of engagement the instruction provides for the learner. Cognitive-affective theory of learning with media (CATML) includes metacognitive and motivational factors that are important to the cognitive theory of multimedia, although understudied (Mayer, 2014).

The main theme of CATML is to provide opportunities for affective features of an instructional message, which will influence engagement in the cognitive processes. The three approaches to add affective features are less is more, more is more, and focused more is more. Less is more focused on chunking the lesson and reducing irrelevant processing of the instruction, which helps eliminate motivational feature overload. The more is more approach technique focused on adding challenging scenarios or appealing graphics without concern of motivational overload and distraction. Finally, focused more is more includes all three of the instructional design goals. This approach uses graphics that are relevant to the objective and allow for challenging learning experiences with enough guidance and time to complete the learning objective (Mayer, 2014).

Key Points

There are three main types of affective features for the CATML.

  • Emotionally appealing elements
    • Incorporated face-shaped graphics and appealing colors
    • Increased learner performance based on self-ratings of motivation
  • Decorative illustrations
    • Incorporated interesting but irrelevant graphics
    • Higher ratings of interest
    • Did not result in higher performance
    • Challenging learning tasks
      • Some form of a confusing task during instruction
  • Challenging learning tasks
    • Analyzed research studies with the help of an onscreen peer and agent
      • One set gave the same opinions
      • One set gave different opinions
    • Creating challenging learning situations can increase motivation
      • But instruction should be designed to limit unnecessary cognitive processing not related to the objective
    • Confusion can foster learning
      • Contradictions about the essential material led to generative processing

Design Principles and Explanations

The design of effective instruction should include embedded materials that influence motivation and affect. Based on this article, not all forms of motivational aids perform as advertised when used in computer-based multimedia lessons. When these motivational aids are used in this type of instruction, they are only effective when the learners are not distracted or over-loaded by these aids. Motivational aids improve student learning when multimedia instruction is designed using the focused more is more approach (Mayer, 2014).

Discussion Questions

  1. What importance does motivation play in multimedia design?
  2. How do you gauge a learner’s motivation for this type of instruction?

Additional Resources

Improving student motivation by means of multimedia https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/335167.pdf





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