Elaboration Likelihood Model of Persuasion


The ELM claims that a persons route of thinking determines changes. The theori is based on the idea that attitudes are important because attitudes guide decisions and other behaviors. While attitudes can result from a number of things, persuasion is a primary source.

ELM is based on 4 assumptions:

1) There are 2 routes of thinking

a) central
b) peripheral

2) There are 2 variables that effect which route of thinking a person may employ

a) situational
b) personality

3) Persuasion tools will have different effects on audiences depending on the route employed
4) Central Route is more persistent over time, more resistant to change, and more predictive of behavior

The model features two routes of persuasive influence: central and peripheral. The ELM accounts for the differences in persuasive impact produced by arguments that contain ample information and logical reasons as compared to messages that rely on simplistic associations of negative and positive attributes to some object, action or situation also known as cues. The key variable in this process is involvement, the extent to which an individual is willing and able to think about the position materials. When people are motivated and able to think about the content of the message, elaboration is high. Elaboration involves cognitive processes such as evaluation, recall, critical judgment, and inferential judgment. When elaboration is high, the central persuasive route is likely to occur; conversely, the peripheral route is the likely result of low elaboration. Persuasion may also occur with low elaboration. The receiver is not guided by his or her assessment of the message, as in the case of the central route, but the receiver decides to follow a principle or make a decision based on cues.

Elaboration activity
Whether someone is participating in central or peripherical route of thinking is detmined by their level of elabortion activity. What this means is, those who generate high levels of elaboration activity are using a central route to thinking, they are actively participating in an internal dialoge as a means of making a proper decision. As for peripheral thinkers, the interal dialoge is much less active if at all.

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Central Route

Central route processes are those that require a great deal of thought, and therefore are likely to predominate under conditions that promote high elaboration. Elaboration is defined as the factor that relates information in a persuasive message to knowledge already possessed in order to arrive at a new value or belief. In order to evaluate a message, a person must be motivated and able. The best example of a factor that motivates is relevance. When people believe the situation is personally important to them, they are much more likely to think centrally about it. You must demonstrate how the issue is meaningful and relevant to your targets if you want them to be central thinkers. The second factor that must be considered when using a central route is the targets ability to understand the message. For example if you are selling a high tech product to a group of low tech buyers, you would translate the message into words that the low tech buyers could understand.

Those who chose a central route of thinking look for the arguments as means of persuasion.

Peripheral Route

The Peripheral Route to Persuasion is defined by the reliance on simple cues and environmental characteristics of the message to make decisions and judgments. Most people most of the time are in the peripheral route. Also called "cognitive misers" peripheral thinkers are lazy thinkers who do not want to expend the energy needed to think carefully with a lot of effort. A peripheral th inker will be more influenced by cues such as reciprocity, commitment and consistency, social proof, authority, liking and scarcity.

Those who take the peripheral route focus on cues to draw their attention:

Scarcity- Perceived scarcity will generate demand.
Reciprocity - People tend to return a favor.
Commitment and Consistency - Once people commit to what they think is right,
orally or in writing, they are more likely to honor that commitment, even if the original incentive or motivation is subsequently removed.
Liking -People are easily persuaded by other people whom they like
Social Proof - People will do things that they see other people are doing.
Authority - People will tend to obey authority figures, even if they are asked to perform objectionable acts. (Doctor, Lawyer, Police officer)

How to Shift from Peripheral thinking to Central thinking

Central thinkers want arguments and peripheral thinkers want cues. Central thinkers, if they are influenced, will show changes that are more persistent, resistant, and predictive. As a practical persuader, we want our targets to use central thinking. In order to increase the likelihood of central processing you must make sure that your target is willing and able to do this kind of cognitive work. In order to achieve central processing with your target audience you must motivate them. In order to motivate you must make the situation personally relevant to them. If the situation holds little relevance, they will stay in the peripheral route. You must demonstrate how the issue is meaningful to your targets if you want them to be central thinkers. For example parents, teachers, and the federal government have tried to prevent teenage smoking with arguments based on health. Despite these efforts teens continued to smoke because the health argument lacks central importance to a teenager leaving them in a peripheral state of mind. When new arguments are brought up focused on social factors that are relevant to the teen such as, "you smell bad if you smoke," "no one wants to kiss somebody with cigarette breath" that person will shift from a peripheral route to a central route.



Petty and Cacioppo discovered, in contrast to social judgment-involvement theory, that high levels of involvement do not invariably decrease persuasion. ELM was developed to explain the conflicting results in peoples attitudes and beliefs. ELM was originally proposed but was disregarded, unsuccessful data collection Petty, Cacioppo, & Schumann, 1983: Attitudes and Persuasion

Petty & Cacioppo, 1986: Coined the ELM

- Luczniak, Meuhling, & Grossbart, 1989: ‘Involvement’ from an advertizing perspective
* as involvement levels increase:
1) consumers pay more attention to ad messages
2) consumers focus more on brand processing that non-brand processin

ELM was applied to media areas (marketing, advertizing, and consumer behavior)

1) Buschholz & Smith, 1991 : ad involvment
2) Gotlieb & Sanel, 1991: response involvement
3) Putrevu & Lord, 1994: cognitive vs. effective involvement

Current Research: (2002)

Hershberger, 2002: Adding Internet variables to the ELM model
This experiment used model developed by Petty and Cacioppo only they added relevent Internet variables in order to moderate the existing formula to be more applicable to the vastly growing media and computer mediated enviroments. The experiment was done using sujects who viewed websites with experimentally controlled banner ads (one with pherical cues and the other using central arguments) Results proved to be consistent with findings of ELM.

1) web experitise
2) attitude toward the website
3) trust in the internet

Future of the Theory

Advertising researchers have been presented with the new challenge of determining how to effectively utilize the Internat as an advertising medium. In recent years the main form of persuasion and advertisement come from some form of multimedia. With these changes it leaves room for future researches to add on to the concepts already established validated by extensive research. Though we may have reached a standstill as far as progressing further with the model, however, the research has room to by applied in many different diciplines of communication as well as others such as psychology or marketing.

Value of the Theory

Persuasion is an extremely complicated area of communications due to the fact that we are all very different; we live in different situations and are seeking different goals. Yet, everyone uses persuasion at one time or another in everyday life. The Elaboration Likelihood Model is valued because it offers a way to understand how attitudes are formed and changed. This theory can be applied to persuasion because provides means for a person to understand who they are trying to persuade and what route to take. Understanding the two routes provided by ELM is vital to the persuasion process. The value lies in the application of this theory, it allow us to better monitor and controll others mentals state, and then by applying the proper influence agent to the audiences state of mind we can improve our likelihood of persuasive success.

Three Dimensions of study:

1) Epistemological assumption: "What we need to know in order to know?"
The epistemological perspective wants to know what the relationship is between the researcher and that which can be known, or who can produce knowledge? This perspective assumes that ELM is the most effective way to persuade and audience or produce a change in attitude.

2) Axiological assumption: "What is worth knowing and why?"
The axiological perspective is looking to find how one's values, that is both the researcher as well as the researched, find a place within the research process. Under this view ELM is assumed to be value consciouse, meaning the message must be communicated the most effected way in terms or the audience NOT according to the speaker.

3) Ontological assumption: "What is real and knowable?"
Ontology looks to answer the question: what is the form and nature of reality, and therefore, what is there that can be know about it? When applied to ELM the ontological assumption is that humans are reactors to a stimulus. It is precisely this reaction that makes acheiving a desired reaction or attitude change possible.


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