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 marketers get benefited from the model. Certainly, it is used in science and particularly in the health sector also.

What the model says;

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

The central route

When we confront a message, we sometimes are likely to elaborate its content by thinking a lot about it before shifting our attitude about the message. In this instance, we do not rely on any outside influence. This type of thinking process is called the “central route”. In order to go through this route, someone needs to be

(1) motivated,

and (2) either enjoying or having the ability of thinking.

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

On the other hand, when we do not give much thought to the message content (low likelihood of elaboration), the process is called “peripheral route”. In this situation, we are likely to 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 is considered along a continuum. Those are in high likelihood of elaboration are going through the central route, while those who are in low likelihood of elaboration are going through the peripheral route.

Does it matter?

Yes, it matters. Those who are persuaded by the central route are more determined to engage and continue in the desired behavior 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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