Group Contributors:
Sasha Geukjian, Dawn McGuckin, Nathan Bugden, Gavin Robertson, Elita Partosoedarso, Amanda Paul

The elaboration likelihood model states that there are two ways in which people are persuaded. The first is the central or logical route and the second is the emotional or peripheral route. (O'Keefe, D.J., 2008)

Keywords: message, persuasion, peripheral cues, central route, media

Elaboration Likelihood in Media and Technology
When considering the elaboration likelihood model in the media and in technology it is easiest to frame the model in terms of advertising. The model develops an understanding of the effectiveness of an ad through the two following routes of persuasion.

The Rational or Central Route – this takes place when elaboration likelihood is high and involves effort in cognition, individual focus on relevant information, and draws upon prior experience for assessment and elaboration.

If the message is consistent with prior attitudes then the individual will support the ad and/or product while counter arguments are formed if the messages conflict with personal attitudes.

The Emotional or Peripheral Route – this takes place when elaboration likelihood is low and the individual does not think about the message content. Rather non content elements are considered such as aesthetics, music, and celebrities utilized within the ad.

Variables that Influence Elaboration Likelihood of an Ad
1. Repetition – moderate message repetition provides increased availability for analyses which can lead to favourable brand attitudes with strong arguments.
2. Prior Knowledge – more prior knowledge is better, but is only effective with retrieval of the information.
3. Self-Referencing – greater elaboration if people can relate the ad/product to themselves.
4. Arousal – leads consumers to focus on the least demanding elements of the ad. However, these elements are then implied when making product evaluations.
5. Media Types –growing interest in how messages are received among different mediums. For example, “For highly involved consumers, radio commercials offer more opportunity to generate self-related elaboration than TV; for less involved consumers, the visual stimuli in TV commercials draw more attention and lead to more learning of brands and ad points” (Lien, 2001, p.303).
6. Combining Variables – combining different variables can increase and hinder the message. “For example, the use of rhetorical questions can increase message thinking when motivation to process the message is low, but will disrupt normal processing when motivation increases” (Lien, 2001, p.303).

Links to the Classroom
Teachers have an amazing amount of influence over their students. It is not only a strong influence it is also constant. The ELM model is an excellent opportunity for teachers to start to work with their students to build positive contributions on the values, moral and ethics of growing minds.

  • Ethics/Morals/Values/Character --> These values are built over time and nutured to help a student become a productive adult. Teachers can use the ELM model starting from pre-K to help students to choose how to make the right decisions and to spread anti-bulling and prosocial messages that will shape the nature and behaviours of the students.
  • Create a love of Learning --> ELM can once again be called into play in order to help students recognize the joys and success that can come from having an open mind towards learning. Teachers can use their continuous influence both central and periheral methods and encourage students to love learning. One of the main central persuasion methods would be just having a positive attitute and demonstrating enjoyment. Peripherally teachers can make learning fun by being creative and having interactive involved lessons.
  • Pro-Social Cultural Messages --> Teachers can help students develop a pro-social understanding and outlook on issues and take a positive stance on issues such as the environment, equal opportunity and social justice. As a teacher by demonstrating these messages and "Marketing" them in a way that is appealing and meaningful to young students there is a greater chance they will have successful adoption.

A first critique looks at the two routes of elaboration. The central route admittedly only applies to a small portion of the population. You can only make a central route argument if your audience is knowledgeable about the topic and they have the motivation to hear your message because it applies directly to them. The peripheral route is supposed to be able to persuade the remaining individuals who know little to nothing about the topic at hand. These individuals are believed to be persuaded by catchy tunes, bright colours, celebrity endorsements and peripheral cues like scarcity and perceived credibility. However, there are several people which neither of these routes would affect. It is difficult to successfully persuade individuals who do not have their basic physical needs met. If you don’t have a roof over your head or you’re starving, you don’t really care what anybody is trying to persuade you to do unless they are bribing you with food or shelter and in either case, this is bribery, not persuasion. As well there are certain cultures whose value system would not be motivated by shallow peripheral cues such as a celebrity endorsement. They simply would not be interested. The topic or product may also be irrelevant to the culture or person. Trying to persuade someone living on the street to buy house insurance or attempting to sell a car to a primitive tribe member in Africa would never work, regardless of the gimmicks or advertising you might utilize. This theory does not take into account cases such as this.

Others who have studied this theory believe that there is not enough attention paid to what is indicative of a strong vs. weak argument in the central route or the nature of argument quality. There has not been a lot of research done to describe what could possibly makes one’s argument more persuasive, although some suggest that it is directly linked to how highly valued the properties of the product are to the audience; that being either a commercial product or the idea being sold. (O'Keefe, D.J., 2008)

Elaboration likelihood model, Petty and Cacioppo 1979 put forth an extension to the Model of attention by Kahneman (1973). Whereas Kahneman left the processing of the information as a unit, and focused on the arousal that the persuasion created. Petty and Cacioppo divided the processing into peripheral and central processes. I’m not sure they really meant at the physiological level but the areas that the persuasion ‘hits’ the receiver, being either cognitive, (central) or emotional(peripheral) . Stiff made comment to this effect and argued that the model of attention by Kahneman already covered the applications that the Elaboration Likelihood model covered. Petty and Cacioppo replied that they were not looking at the same factors. Petty and Cacioppo looked at the attitude change, and Kahneman looked at the arousal created by the persuasion.

Another researcher by the name of James Stiff investigated the theory in 1986 and compared it to similar studies at the time. He found that the theory placed way too much value on personal relevance and involvement with the topic in regards to determining the amount of persuasion these factors held. Petty and Cacioppo retaliated with a paper in 1987 by taking an in depth look at all of the other factors that affected elaboration. (Petty, Kasmer, Haugtvedt & Cacioppo, 1987)

Finally, an argument exists that the relationship of the central route and peripheral route processes needs to be further examined. One counter theory is Kruglanski and Thompson’s ‘unimodel’. They argue that the central and peripheral routes are not actually two fundamentally different processes, but actually one unified process of reasoning to conclusions based on evidence. They argue that in stressing the complexity of the central route and the simple messages of the peripheral route they created two distinct but unnecessary processes. Instead, if the degree of complexity was removed from the equation we could focus on the similarity between how the cues and arguments are processed. However, this argument is controversial and much more research needs to be done before it is accepted. (O'Keefe, D.J., 2008)


Lien, N. (2001): Elaboration Likelihood Model in Consumer Research: A Review. Proceedings of the National Science Council, 11(4), 301-310.

O'Keefe, D. J. (2008) Elaboration Likelihood Model. In the International Encyclopedia of Communication, p. 1475-1480. Singapore: C.O.S. Printers Ltd.

Petty, R.E., Kasmer, J.A., Haugtvedt, C.P., Cacioppo, J. T. (1987) Source and message factors in persuasion: A reply to Stiff’s critique of the elaboration likelihood model. Communication Monographs, (54) September, 233-249.

Um, N. (2008). Revisit Elaboration Likelihood Model: How Advertising Appeals Work on Attitudinal and Behavioural Brand Loyalty Centering Around Low vs. High-Involvement Product. European Journal of Social Sciences, 7(1), p.126-139.