Moreno, R., & Mayer, R. E. (1999). Cognitive principles of multimedia learning: The role of modality and contiguityJournal of educational psychology91(2), 358.


Mayer and Moreno conducted a research project aimed to test and clarify the contiguity and modality principle of the multimedia learning theory. It was their belief that the instructional design of multimedia was based on intuitive beliefs instead of empirical data. Part of the study focused on two effects of the contiguity principle: temporal and spatial effects. The temporal-contiguity effect is when visual and spoken material is presented simultaneously, not successively. The spatial-contiguity effect refers to printed pictures and text in proximity to each other. The other part of this study was the modality principle. This principle suggests information should be presented as auditory narration rather than visual, on-screen text. There were two experiments used during this study. The first experiment studied how the spatial-contiguity of animations, text, and modality influence learning. The second experiment examined the beneficial effects of presenting material auditorily rather than visually (Moreno & Mayer, 1999).

Key Points

Experiment 1- Spatial-contiguity of animations, text, and modality

  • Students given multiple versions of multimedia instruction using same animation (how the lightning process works)
    • Narration
    • Separated text
    • Integrated text
  • Given three different tests- modality effects were obtained on all three
    • Retention test asked students to explain the phenomenon of lightning
      • Spatial-contiguity effects obtained
    • Transfer test asked questions about how to use the knowledge gained to answer questions
      • Spatial-contiguity effects obtained
    • Matching test identifying different parts of animation
  • Students scored higher on all three tests when narration was present
  • Based on the modality interpretation, students who learn auditory with verbal materials with animations performed better than students who learn with on-screen text and animations
  • For the spatial-contiguity interpretation, students performed better when the on-screen text was integrated with animations than when the on-screen text was separate from the animations

Experiment 2- Presenting auditorily instead of visually with multimedia presentations

  • Tested a hypothesis based on the superiority of simultaneous narration and animations (found during experiment one) was based on the idea that students can only focus on one type of visual material at a time, either graphics or text
  • Information was presented on the process of lightning formation either sequentially or simultaneously using computer-generated animation
    • was presented auditorily and visually
  • instruction was varied dependent upon when the animation was narrated or the text appeared
    • same graphics were used for all groups
  • After instruction, these students were given three
    • Students performed better when the instruction was given verbally
    • little variation between the simultaneous and sequential narration groups
      • when the narration was given did not significantly impact scores
    • Students performed better when visual and verbal information was presented based on the modality effect

Design Principles and Explanations

Both experiments showed that using mixed-modality in multimedia instruction improves learning, using both verbal and visual instruction. The experiments also showcased the importance of designing multimedia instruction with graphics and text materials close to one another. Based on the results of the experiments, it is also important to have the text material simultaneously with the graphics portraying the same content idea. The data collected by Mayer and Moreno also portrayed the idea that narration was superior over text (Moreno & Mayer, 1999).

Discussion Questions

  1. What are ways you use mixed-modality instruction in your classroom?
  2. Do you tend to favor auditory or visual teaching in your instruction? If so, why?

Additional Resources

Contiguity Principle – https://sites.google.com/site/cognitivetheorymmlearning/contiguity-principle

Modality Principle – https://sites.google.com/site/cognitivetheorymmlearning/modality-principle



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