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Media Influence

2) Elaboration-likelihood model

Petty and Cacioppo suggested there are two different routes to effective persuasion, which  one is more effective will depend on whether the audience focus’ on the message itself, or outside factors, such as the credibility of the source; otherwise known as the central route and the peripheral route.

The central route to persuasion – This route is taken when the audience is more likely to focus on the content of the message, i.e. the strength of its arguments, than the context they are in. Because this route tends to be more measured and well-thought out than the peripheral route any attitude changes made in this way tend to be more lasting.

The peripheral route of persuasion – This route focuses on things surrounding the message, i.e. the attractiveness or credibility of the source, rather than the message itself. Fiske and Taylor said that this happens because we are ‘cognitive misers’ and will always look for the easiest route when making decisions, and this often means evaluation peripheral information rather than taking the time to evaluate the validity of the message. Attitude changes brought about through this route tend to be less personally important and less permanent.

Commentary on the Elaboration-likelihood model

Need for cognition – A ‘need for cognition’ means how much you think about something before making your judgement. Haugtvedt et al (1992) found that those with a high need for cognition tended to be more influenced by the central route of persuasion, and vice versa for low cognition and the peripheral route of persuasion.

Real-life application – Vidrine et al studied how the need for cognition can affect a smoking awareness campaign. She exposed students to either a fact (central route) or emotion based (peripheral route) smoking awareness campaign. Those with high need for cognition were more persuaded the fact based campaign and the participants with low need for cognition were more easily persuaded by the emotion based campaign. This suggests that the theory linking need for cognition and what route to persuasion is more effective is correct. This also shows a clear way in which the Elaboration-likelihood model can be useful in the real world, as advertising companies can tailor make their campaigns to suit varies levels of need for cognition.


About Sam Cook

A blog set up to help A Level students revise Sociology


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