Elaboration Likelihood Model

Elaboration Likelihood Model and its evaluation

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Elaboration Likelihood Model

Developed by Petty and Cacioppo this model explains the processes that lead to persuasion. The word elaboration refers to how much people think about the argument that is being presented. The model proposes that there are two distinct ways of thinking about persuasive messages that lead to changes in attitude:

  • Central Route
  • Peripheral Route
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Central Route

Involves thoughtful consideration of the message and requires focus and effort on the part of the recipient. The recipient must listen carefully to the core message and use prior experience and understanding to assess its validity. Cacioppo and Petty suggested that some people enjoy this analysing of arguments and this is known as a high need for cognition. This means that they are more likely to focus on the quality of argument than the context in which they are presented. Due to the effort required for the central route the persuasion leads to a more permanent attitude change and therefore consequently a behavioural change.

To engage in the central route the recipient needs to have the relevant motivation and ability and so personal relevance of the message plays a crucuial role as does the message source.

Vidrine et al conducted a study on smoking risk campaigns. Students were exposed to either fact-based or emotion-based campaigns. Those with higher need for cognition were more influenced by the fact-based message whereas those with lower need for cognition were more influence by the emotion-based message. This shows how important it is to match the type of route with the audience.

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Peripheral Route

The recipient is persuaded by superficial things rather than engaging in elaborated thinking about the core message. Fiske and Taylor claimed that most people are cognitive misers in that they frequently rely on simple and time-efficient strategies when evaluating information and making decisions. Superficial examples are attractiveness, likeableness and expertise of the messenger.

This route is more effective for people with little knowledge of the issue or for people who are distracted or in a heightened mood. Change however is likely to be temporary as it doesn't involve any elaborate cognitive activity.

Whilst the central route relies upon the quality of argument the peripheral route allows for more creativity when delivering the message such as by using manipulation or deception.

An example is billing a very good actor or actress in a film so that viewers will go and watch the film without knowing what it is about as they have been persuaded by the superficial attractiveness of the main star. Another example is anti-drinking campaigns as many drinkers are not interested in these campaigns and so the central route is likely to be ineffective, meaning advertisements must turn to the peripheral route.

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Ability and Motivation

Ability and motivation have been shown to be important in determining whether a person adopts a central or peripheral route.

If the audience has high motivation and/or the ability to think about the message then they will engage in deep processing and will focus on the quality of the message arguments, leading to a lasting change that resists fading and counterattacks.

If the audience has low motivation and/or low ability to think about the message then they will engage in superficial processing, focusing on surface features of the person persuading them or the number of arguments presented than the message itself. This will lead to temporary change as attitude is susceptible to fading.

5 factors have been identified that influence ability and motivaton:

Message repetition (increased exposure even to meaningless material can increase motivation)     Prior Knowledge (the more you have the mor likely you are to use central route processing)           Self-Referencing (the more they can relate the more likely they are to use the central route)           Arousal (arousal affects processing so highly aroused people less likely to use central)                 Media Type (TV is highly effective as it affects different senses)                                

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