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Elaboration Likelihood Model

Explanation of Theory:

There are two routes to persuasion -- the central route and the peripheral route. The central route uses message elaboration, and can produce a major positive attitude change, while the peripheral route uses six different message irrelevant cues to illicit a quick response with a minor shift in attitude.

Theorist: Petty and Cacioppo

Date:  1986

Primary Article:

      Baxter, L.A. (1988). A dialectical perspective on communication strategies in relationship development. In S. Duck (Ed.), Handbook of Personal Relationships, pp.257-273.

Individual Interpretations:

The central route involves message elaboration and is used to scrutinize ideas, determine their merit and contemplate possible consequences. The peripheral route provides a quick accept or reject decision without deep consideration. Six cues automatically lead a person to the peripheral route: reciprocation -"I did you a favor", consistency - "This is the way it's done", social proof -"Everyone does it", liking -"You like me and my idea", authority -"Because I said so", and scarcity -"This offer ends in five minutes".

Metatheoretical Assumptions:

Ontological Assumption:
ELM is a scientific theory that charcterizes humans as reactors to a stimulus making a desired reaction or attitude change achievable. 

Epistemological Assumption:
This theory provides the most effective way to persuade an audience or produce an attitude change.  These guidelines fit with the scientific perspective of one truth or one best way to do approach a situation.

Axiological Assumption:
ELM is a value conscious theory. A speaker must communicate his/her message in the most effective way for the audience not for the speaker.


Elaboration Likelihood Model, though scientific, is difficult to critique according to traditional scientific standards. The theory clearly and simply explains both routes of persuasion and the ideal circumstances for each. However, as a model, it is difficult to determine its falsifiability and internal consistency.

Ideas and Implications:

ELM is a fairly accurate model of how attitude changes are achieved and the difficulty in producing a major or long-term attitude change. While it is not a blanket for all situations, the guidelines set forth in the model provide an invaluable framework to the fields of public speaking and persuasion. 


Perfume ads rely on the peripheral route while infomercials use the central route to persuade a person to buy their products. During a 30-second perfume commercial the audience has no motivation to process information.  Their concentration becomes nonexistent during commercial breaks therefore advertisers must grab their attention the quickest and easiest way possible.

An infomercial has the time and the audience interest to use the central route. It is common knowledge that most infomercials last 30 minutes. Therefore, if a person is watching the producers can assume that the viewer has an interest in their product. Testimonial from a reliable looking host helps to bring about the positive attitude change and therefore the sale hoped for. However, to capture the transient viewer producers resort to the peripheral route by lighting a car hood on fire.

Relevant Research:

    Brooks-Harris, J.E., Heesacker, M., Mejia-Millan, C. (1996). Changing men's male gender-role attitudes by applying the elaboration likelihood model of attitude change. Sex Roles: A Journal of Research, 35(9-10), 563-581.

Hillenbrand-Gunn, T.L., Hawkins, A.K., Hacquard, L.L., Nichols, R.K., DeBord, K.A. & Brock, K.J. (1995). Examining sex differences in altering attitudes about rape: A test of the elaboration likelihood model. Journal of Counseling and Development, 73(6), 640-648.

White, P.H., & Harkins, S.G. (1994). Race of source effects in the elaboration likelihood model. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67(5), 790-808.

Location in Eight (8) Primary Communication Theory Textbooks:

     Anderson, R., & Ross, V. (1998). Questions of communication: A practical introduction to theory (2nd ed.). New York: St. Martin's Press.  N/A

     Cragan, J. F., & Shields, D.C. (1998). Understanding communication theory: The communicative forces for human action. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon. pp. 13

     Griffin, E. (2000). A first look at communication theory (4th ed.). Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill. pp. 109-201.

     Griffin, E. (1997). A first look at communication theory (3rd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill. pp. 

      Infante, D. A., Rancer, A. S., & Womack, D. F. (1997). Building communication theory (3rd ed.). Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press. pp. 170-173.

      Littlejohn, S. W. (1999). Theories of human communication (6th ed). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. pp. 141-143.

      West, R., & Turner, L. H. (2000). Introducing communication theory: Analysis and application. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield. N/A

       Wood, J. T. (1997). Communication theories in action: An introduction. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. N/A