Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM)

Message framers use the Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM) in everyday practice. Richard Petty and John Cacioppo developed the model and published it in 1980. I read about their paper published in 1984 through this link; this is a PDF file and freely available.

What is it for?

The ELM aims to persuade a target audience, hence its name: The Elaboration Likelihood Model of Persuasion – in short, ELM. As expected, the model helps marketers to craft their messages. not only in marketing, but those who work in other sectors such as science and health also use it in creating their educational messages.

What the model says;

It says that the message recipients process information via two routes: the central route and the peripheral route.

The central route

The term central route refers to when we try to digest the message without outside help. It requires a high level of energy and effort by ourselves. in other words, it needs a high degree of elaboration.

One’s motivation level relies on perceived personal relevance and ability to think. The opportunity to think also may rely on the number of opportunities to do so and the degree of distraction.

The peripheral route

In contrast to the central route, the peripheral route refers to situations when we do not give much thought to the message content (low degree of elaboration). In this situation, we might change our attitudes based on outside factors such as the attractiveness of the message, the credibility of the person who endorses it, etc.

The elaboration likelihood runs along a continuum. Those who are in a high likelihood of elaboration are going through the central route, while those who are in a low likelihood of elaboration go through the peripheral route.

Does it matter?

Yes, it matters. Research reveals that those who go through the central route are more determined to engage and continue in the desired behaviour than those who are persuaded through the peripheral route. However, most of the time, as we are busy, we tend to change our attitudes and then take decisions via the peripheral route.

Who developed it? and when?

Richard Petty and John Cacioppo developed in 1980.


Author: Prasantha De Silva

A specialist in Community Medicine board-certified in Sri Lanka and a research analyst in Canada

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