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Chapter 15—Elaboration Likelihood Model
- The central route and the peripheral routes to persuasion.
- Richard Petty and John Cacioppo posit two basic mental routes for attitude change.
- The central route involves message elaboration, defined as the extent to which a person carefully thinks about issue-relevant arguments contained in a persuasive communication.
- The peripheral route processes the message without any active thinking about the attributes of the issue or the object of consideration.
- Recipients rely on a variety of cues to make quick decisions.
- Robert Cialdini has identified six such cues:
- Social proof
- Although Petty and Cacioppo’s model seems to suggest that the routes are mutually exclusive, the theorists stress the central route and the peripheral route are poles on a cognitive processing continuum that shows the degree of mental effort a person exerts when evaluating a message.
- The more listeners work to evaluate a message, the less they will be influenced by content-irrelevant factors; the greater the effect of content-irrelevant factors, the less impact the message carries.
- Motivation for elaboration: Is it worth the effort?
- People are motivated to hold correct attitudes.
- Yet the number of ideas a person can scrutinize is limited, so we tend to focus on issues that are personally relevant.
- Personally relevant issues are more likely to be processed on the central route; issues with little relevance take the peripheral route, where credibility and other content free cues take on greater importance).
- Certain individuals have a need for cognitive clarity, regardless of the issue; these people will work through many of the ideas and arguments they hear.
- Ability for elaboration: Can they do it?
- Elaboration requires intelligence and concentration.
- Distraction disrupts elaboration.
- Repetition may increase the possibility of elaboration, but too much repetition causes people to resort to the peripheral route.
- Type of elaboration: Objective vs. biased thinking.
- Biased elaboration (top-down thinking) occurs when predetermined conclusions color the supporting data underneath.
- Objective evaluation (bottom-up thinking) considers the facts on their own merit.
- Elaborated messages: Strong, weak, and neutral.
- Objective elaboration examines the perceived strength of an argument.
- Petty and Cacioppo have no absolute standard for differentiating between cogent and specious arguments.
- They define a strong message as one that generates favorable thoughts.
- Thoughtful consideration of strong arguments will produce positive shifts in attitude.
- The change is persistent over time.
- It resists counterpersuasion.
- It predicts future behavior.
- Thoughtful consideration of weak arguments can lead to negative boomerang effects paralleling the positive effects of strong arguments (but in the opposite direction).
- Mixed or neutral messages won’t change attitudes and in fact reinforce original attitudes.
- Peripheral cues: An alternative route of influence.
- Most messages are processed through the peripheral route, bringing attitude changes without issue-relevant thinking.
- The most obvious cues for the peripheral route are tangible rewards.
- Source credibility is also important.
- The principal components of source credibility are likability and expertise.
- Source credibility is salient for those unmotivated or unable to elaborate.
- Peripheral route change can be either positive or negative, but it won’t have the impact of message elaboration.
- Pushing the limits of peripheral power.
- Penner and Fritzshe’s study of Magic Johnson’s HIV announcement suggests that the effect of even powerful peripheral cues is short-lived.
- Although most ELM research has measured the effects of peripheral cues by studying credibility, a speaker’s competence or character could also be a stimulus to effortful message elaboration.
- Petty and Cacioppo emphasize that it’s impossible to compile a list of cues that are strictly peripheral.
- Lee and Koo argue that there are times when source credibility is processed through the central route rather than functioning as a peripheral cue.
- This is particularly true when there's a close match between an advertised product that consumers really care about and the expertise of the star presenter.
- Many variables like perceived credibility or the mood of the listener can act as peripheral cues. Yet if one of them motivates listeners to scrutinize the message or affects their evaluation of arguments, it no longer serves as a no-brainer.
- Choosing a route: Practical advice for the persuader.
- If listeners are motivated and able to elaborate a message, rely on factual arguments—i.e., appeal through the central route.
- When listeners are willing and able to elaborate a message, avoid using weak arguments; they will backfire.
- If listeners are unable or unwilling to elaborate a message, rely on packaging rather than content; appeal by using cues be processed on the peripheral route.
- When using the peripheral route, however, the effects will probably be fragile.
- Ethical reflection: Nilsen’s significant choice.
- Nilsen proposes that persuasive speech is ethical to the extent that it maximizes people’s ability to exercise free choice.
- Philosophers and rhetoricians have compared persuasion to a lover making fervent appeals to his beloved—wooing an audience, for example.
- For Nilsen, true love can’t be coerced; it must be freely given.
- Nilsen would regard persuasive appeals that encourage message elaboration through ELM’s central route as ethical
- Critique: Elaborating the model.
- ELM has been a leading theory of persuasion and attitude change for the last twenty-five years, and Petty and Cacioppo’s initial model has been very influential.
- These theorists have elaborated ELM to make it more complex, less predictive, and less practical, which makes it problematic as a scientific theory.
- As Paul Mongeau and James Stiff have charged, the theory cannot be adequately tested and falsified, particularly in terms of what makes a strong or weak argument.
- Despite these limitations, the theory synthesizes many diverse aspects of persuasion.
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