Elaboration Likelihood Model

H. Allen White

in Communication

ISBN: 9780199756841
Published online February 2011 | | DOI:
Elaboration Likelihood Model


The Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM), developed by Richard E. Petty and John T. Cacioppo in the early 1980s, is a twofold, or dual-process, model that describes how people choose to manage, either systematically or heuristically, information they encounter. Specifically focused on persuasion, the ELM argues that there are two routes to persuasion: the central route and the peripheral route. Central route processing is systematic and involves message receivers’ scrutinizing the central, logical merits of a persuasive message. The peripheral route is heuristic; it is the means by which message receivers evaluate persuasive messages when they are unmotivated and/or unable to elaborate on its logical merits. Although the ELM’s central and peripheral routes naturally cause one to focus on its dual processes, Petty and Cacioppo point out that it also incorporates the notion of elaboration likelihood, meaning that message receivers move along a continuum of probability to engage in effortful thought. At one end of this continuum, receivers have a virtual 100 percent probability of expending considerable cognitive effort to evaluate the central merits of a persuasive message. At the other end, receivers hold a nonexistent probability of effortful elaboration. Petty and Cacioppo frame their description of this elaboration continuum in terms of the importance of heuristic devices (peripheral cues) in the persuasion process. They argue that as the combination of motivation and ability to engage in effortful elaboration decreases, these peripheral cues become more important determinants of persuasion. Conversely, as receiver’s motivation and ability increase, peripheral cues become less important. Hence, a defining element of the ELM is motivation. Assuming that receivers have the ability to scrutinize the arguments of a persuasive message, their level of motivation determines the extent to which they actually engage in this cognitive activity. Further, the ELM argues that the variables in a persuasive context can serve three purposes. They can take on the role of persuasive arguments that are evaluated via the central route. They can serve as either positive or negative peripheral cues that allow message receivers to reach conclusions absent elaboration. Finally, they can function as motivators affecting the amount and direction of issue-relevant elaboration. Finally, the ELM argues that changes in attitude that result from central route processing will be more persistent, will be better predictors of behavior, and will be more resistant to counter-persuasion than are attitude changes that result from exposure to peripheral cues.

Article.  4640 words. 

Subjects: Communication Studies

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