Elaboration Likelihood Model (19 Examples + Description)

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Have you ever wondered why some ads stick in your mind while others are easily forgotten? You're about to discover a psychological model that explains just that.

The Elaboration Likelihood Model is a framework that explains how persuasive communication can lead to attitude changes in people, through two different pathways: the central route and the peripheral route.

Now that you're here, get ready to learn about the fascinating history of this model, its real-world applications, and why it still matters today.

What is the Elaboration Likelihood Model?

politician speech

Let's kick things off by really understanding what the Elaboration Likelihood Model is all about. It's not just about ads or commercials.

This model applies whenever you're exposed to any form of communication trying to change your opinion—like political speeches, product reviews, or even a friend urging you to try a new restaurant.

The elaboration likelihood model proposes that messages are received and processed by the human mind via two routes: the central route and the peripheral route.

The central route is all about deep thinking. When you're taking this route, you're seriously considering the message, evaluating the evidence, and coming to a reasoned conclusion.

The peripheral route is a bit like taking a shortcut. Instead of deep analysis, you might rely on surface-level cues. For example, you might find a celebrity endorsement convincing, or you might be swayed by a catchy jingle.

Why should you care? Well, the route you choose impacts not just what you think, but how durable your new attitude is.

If you're convinced through the central route, your new attitude is more likely to stick around and influence your future actions. On the flip side, a change in attitude via the peripheral route is often temporary.

The basic processes underlying our attitude and approach behavior significantly affect consumer attitudes. Mental health counseling demonstrated that if we have to exert considerable mental effort and thoughtful consideration, we are less likely to do so. That is the central processing route.

Not only does the central route take a lot of effort, it often needs requisite knowledge and a relatively objective manner. Highly skeptical consumers tend to think this way, but different humans process stimuli differently, and not everyone has the time or attitude to take the central route.

Rather, we often make decisions based on peripheral processing routes - that is, through persuasion contexts that affect attitudes or require simple message processing. If it can quickly give us the relevant knowledge needed and create more favorable product attitudes, then people are less likely to look at other factors.

19 Examples

  1. Got Milk? Campaign: Appeals to both central and peripheral routes with nutritional facts and celebrity endorsements.
  2. Anti-smoking Campaigns: Graphic images for central route persuasion and shocking visuals for the peripheral route.
  3. Obama's "Yes We Can" Slogan: Detailed policies for central route and a catchy slogan for the peripheral route.
  4. Apple Product Launches: Detailed tech specs to engage central processors and sleek design for peripheral processors.
  5. TED Talks: In-depth information for the central route and charismatic speakers for the peripheral route.
  6. Weight Loss Programs: Scientific evidence for the central route and before-after photos for the peripheral route.
  7. College Admissions: Fact-based brochures for central route persuasion and campus beauty shots for the peripheral route.
  8. Political Debates: Policy discussions for the central route and personal charisma for the peripheral route.
  9. Movie Trailers: Plot details for the central route and dramatic music for the peripheral route.
  10. Car Advertisements: Mileage and safety features for the central route and luxury images for the peripheral route.
  11. Fashion Marketing: Material and durability details for the central route and trendy models for the peripheral route.
  12. Super Bowl Commercials: Humor or star power for the peripheral route and product benefits for the central route.
  13. Charity Campaigns: Statistics for the central route and emotional storytelling for the peripheral route.
  14. Restaurant Menus: Nutritional information for the central route and appetizing photos for the peripheral route.
  15. Social Media Influencers: Product reviews for the central route and lifestyle shots for the peripheral route.
  16. Email Marketing: In-depth articles for the central route and catchy headlines for the peripheral route.
  17. Public Service Announcements: Facts and figures for the central route and celebrity voices for the peripheral route.
  18. Job Interviews: Resume and experience for the central route and personal rapport for the peripheral route.
  19. Online Dating Profiles: Interests and values for the central route and attractive photos for the peripheral route.

History of the Model

In the early 1980s, two researchers named Richard E. Petty and John T. Cacioppo came into the spotlight. They noticed something intriguing. Not all persuasive messages were created equal, and people had different ways of processing them.

To make sense of this, they introduced the Elaboration Likelihood Model in 1986. Their work reshaped the way psychologists and marketers understood persuasion.

At that time, persuasion theories were a bit scattered. Some focused on the message itself, others on the source of the message, and yet others on the audience's mood.

Petty and Cacioppo brought these ideas together under one framework. It was a game-changer because it offered a comprehensive lens to look at how persuasion works, encompassing all these elements.

Their groundbreaking model didn't just sit in academic journals. Businesses, advertisers, and even politicians started using it to craft more effective messages. This is the point when the model moved from the halls of academia to the bustling streets of the real world, affecting how companies and individuals try to sway your opinions every day.

The Core Concepts

model on a catwalk

The central idea of the Elaboration Likelihood Model revolves around two pathways of persuasion: the central route and the peripheral route. We touched on these briefly before, but let's dive deeper.

When you're on the central route, your brain is in high gear. You're thinking critically, scrutinizing details, and weighing pros and cons.

Let's say you're considering buying a new phone. If you go the central route, you'll read up on specs, compare models, and perhaps even look into customer reviews.

Now, contrast that with the peripheral route, the simpler, less-energy-consuming pathway. Here, you might make a decision based on a flashy ad or because your favorite celebrity endorsed it. There's less critical thinking and more reliance on easy-to-process cues. You're not dissecting information; you're absorbing it based on how it's presented.

Understanding the central and peripheral routes helps you realize how you make choices and how those choices can be influenced. It's crucial not just for figuring out your own behavior, but also for understanding the strategies companies and individuals use to persuade you.

Factors Influencing Choice

You might be wondering what determines whether you take the central or peripheral route when you encounter a persuasive message. Well, a lot of things can influence your choice of route.

One big factor is motivation. If you care deeply about a topic, you're more likely to take the central route. For example, if you're passionate about environmental issues, you're probably going to scrutinize the details of a new eco-friendly product.

Another crucial element is your ability to process information. If a message is complicated or you're distracted, you might default to the peripheral route.

Think about driving a car. If you're focused on the road, you can evaluate a billboard's message more deeply. But if you're talking on the phone or lost in thought, you're more likely to rely on quick cues, like a catchy slogan.

Your emotional state can also play a role. If you're in a good mood, research suggests that you might be more susceptible to peripheral cues, like an upbeat jingle. On the other hand, a serious or contemplative mood may make you more analytical, nudging you towards the central route.

So, the route you choose isn't random; it's shaped by how much you care, how able you are to think deeply, and how you're feeling at the moment.

Key Researchers of the Model

eco friendly smart phone ad

By now, you're familiar with the duo who started it all: Richard E. Petty and John T. Cacioppo. But they're not the only ones who've made significant contributions to the Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM). Other researchers have extended and refined the theory in interesting ways.

For instance, Shelly Chaiken's Heuristic-Systematic Model shares similarities with ELM, offering another angle on how people process persuasive messages.

Another key player is Icek Ajzen, known for his Theory of Planned Behavior. While not the same as the Elaboration Likelihood Model, Ajzen's work complements it by exploring the factors that convert an attitude change into actual behavior. In simple terms, he looks at why you do what you do after you've been persuaded.

Robert B. Cialdini also deserves mention. His famous principles of persuasion, like the concept of reciprocity or the power of social proof, align well with the peripheral cues in the Elaboration Likelihood Model. They provide practical examples of how the likelihood model of persuasion works in everyday situations.

Applications of the Model

You don't have to be a psychologist or marketer to benefit from understanding this model. It plays out in everyday situations all the time.

For example, public health campaigns often use ELM to encourage behavior changes, like quitting smoking. They might use factual information, appealing to those who are motivated to take the central route. But they'll also use emotional stories or celebrity endorsements for people who lean toward the peripheral route.

In the business world, this model is gold. Let's say a company is launching a new product. The marketing team will craft messages that engage customers through both routes.

For central route processors, they might offer detailed product specifications and comparisons. For peripheral route processors, they might focus on creating an eye-catching design or an unforgettable slogan.

Even in politics, ELM holds sway. Political campaigns use the model to craft messages that resonate with different audiences. Complex issues and policy details appeal to central route processors, while slogans, images, and charismatic speeches target peripheral route processors.

So there you have it. From health to business to politics, the Elaboration Likelihood Model is everywhere, shaping how messages are crafted and how you respond to them.

Criticisms of the Model

body positivity ad

No model is perfect, and the Elaboration Likelihood Model is no exception.

One of the main criticisms is that it may oversimplify the process of persuasion. In the real world, people might use a blend of both the central and peripheral routes.

For example, you might start by being swayed by a celebrity endorsement (peripheral), but later delve into the facts and features (central) before making a decision.

Another point of critique is the model's lack of focus on cultural factors. Different cultures have unique ways of processing information and being persuaded. What works in one culture might not be as effective in another. So, while the model has universal elements, it's not a one-size-fits-all tool.

Lastly, some argue that the model doesn't sufficiently address the ethical implications of persuasion. It's one thing to use peripheral cues to sell a product, but what about using them to spread misinformation or propaganda?

This opens up a can of worms about the moral responsibilities of those who wield the power of persuasion.

Being aware of these limitations doesn't discredit the model but helps you apply it more thoughtfully.

Case Studies of the Model

First, consider the world-famous "Got Milk?" advertising campaign. It appealed to both central and peripheral routes.

On the central side, the ads often highlighted nutritional facts about milk. On the peripheral side, they used catchy visuals and famous faces to grab attention. This dual approach made the campaign iconic and effective.

Now let's shift gears to something more serious: anti-smoking campaigns. These campaigns often employ graphic images of the health effects of smoking, targeting the central route by making you think about the long-term impact.

But they also use peripheral cues, like shocking visuals or emotive stories, to quickly capture attention and provoke immediate emotional responses.

Lastly, consider political campaigns. Barack Obama's 2008 campaign slogan "Yes We Can" is a classic example. While his speeches and debates catered to central route processors by discussing policies in detail, the slogan itself was a powerful peripheral cue that encapsulated hope and change in a simple, memorable phrase.

Through these case studies, you can see how the Elaboration Likelihood Model isn't just an academic theory; it's a practical tool used in various domains to influence public opinion and behavior.

Future Trends in the Model

person wearing a vr headset

Technology is a game-changer for the Elaboration Likelihood Model. With the rise of big data and machine learning, researchers and marketers alike can analyze consumer behavior like never before.

This could lead to even more tailored and effective persuasive messages. Imagine ads or campaigns designed to dynamically switch between central and peripheral cues based on real-time analysis of your engagement level.

Virtual and augmented reality are also on the horizon as new mediums for persuasion. These technologies could create immersive experiences that impact both central and peripheral route processing in new, unexplored ways.

Imagine walking through a virtual forest while receiving facts about climate change. It would be like a central and peripheral route combo meal!

Additionally, ethical considerations are becoming more prominent. As our understanding of persuasion deepens, so does the need for responsible use of this knowledge.

In the future, we may see more guidelines and regulations around how these persuasive techniques can be ethically deployed, especially in sensitive areas like politics or healthcare.

So, whether it's cutting-edge tech or ethical debates, the Elaboration Likelihood Model is far from stagnant. It's evolving, adapting, and becoming ever more relevant in our complex world.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

1) What is the Elaboration Likelihood Model?

The Elaboration Likelihood Model is a psychological theory that explains how persuasion works. It focuses on two main routes to persuasion: the central route, which is based on logic and reasoning, and the peripheral route, which relies on superficial cues like appearance or emotions.

2) Who developed this model?

The Elaboration Likelihood Model was developed by psychologists Richard E. Petty and John T. Cacioppo in the 1980s.

3) Where is this model used?

The model is widely used in various fields including marketing, political campaigns, public health initiatives, and even in interpersonal relationships to understand how persuasion works.

4) Are there limitations to the model?

Yes, the model has been criticized for oversimplifying the persuasion process, not fully accounting for cultural factors, and lacking a focus on ethical implications.

5) How does technology impact this model?

Advancements in technology like big data and virtual reality are set to evolve the model further. These technologies can help tailor persuasive messages even more effectively.

6) What are some real-world examples?

Examples range from anti-smoking campaigns and political slogans to product launches and charity drives. These instances show how the model applies to both serious and everyday situations.

7) How can I apply this model in my life?

Understanding this model can make you a more discerning consumer of information. If you work in fields like marketing or public relations, it offers effective strategies for influencing public opinion.

8) What are the future trends related to this model?

The model is expected to adapt with advancements in technology, big data analytics, and increasing concerns about ethical use of persuasive techniques.

9) Is the Elaboration Likelihood Model universally applicable?

While the model has universal elements, it may need to be adapted for different cultures or ethical considerations.

10) What's the key takeaway?

The Elaboration Likelihood Model provides a robust framework for understanding how persuasion occurs, empowering you to be more discerning and strategic, whether you're receiving or crafting persuasive messages.


You've come a long way in understanding the Elaboration Likelihood Model. From its foundational theories to the key researchers who've shaped it, you now know how this model works and why it matters.

You've seen it applied in various fields like public health, business, and politics, and you're aware of its limitations and ethical concerns.

You've also peeked into the future, seeing how this model could evolve with technology and societal changes. This isn't just academic jargon; it's a tool you can use to understand the world around you, from the ads you see to the speeches you hear.

So what's the big takeaway? The Elaboration Likelihood Model gives you a framework to understand how persuasion works. It empowers you to be a more discerning consumer of information, and if you're in a field like marketing or public relations, it offers you effective strategies to influence others.

Reference this article:

Practical Psychology. (2023, November). Elaboration Likelihood Model (19 Examples + Description). Retrieved from https://practicalpie.com/elaboration-likelihood-model/.

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