The modality principle in multimedia learning

Juan Cristobal Castro-Alonso*, John Sweller

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


When dealing with instructional information, working memory can be divided into auditory and visual processors. The capacity limits of each processor are a major impediment when students are required to learn new material. Nevertheless, there is one strategy that can effectively expand working memory capacity by using the partially independent status of the auditory and visual processors. Under specific and well-defined conditions, presenting some information in visual mode and other information in auditory mode can increase effective working memory capacity and so reduce the effects of cognitive overload. This effect is called the instructional modality effect or modality principle. It is an instructional principle that can substantially increase learning. This chapter discusses the theory and data that underpin the principle and the instructional implications that flow from the principle.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge handbook of multimedia learning
EditorsRichard E. Mayer, Logan Fiorella
Place of PublicationCambridge, UK
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages7
ISBN (Electronic)9781108898638
ISBN (Print)9781108841580, 9781108814669
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameCambridge Handbooks in Psychology
PublisherCambridge University Press


  • modality principle
  • auditiory processor
  • visual processor
  • split-attention effect
  • cognitive load theory


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