We, as humans, can be easily persuaded. We tend to think this is a negative attribute or a sign of weakness. But no one is immune to it. Sure, you may think you were strong or mightier than others when you didn’t drink in high school or didn’t do “what the cool kids were doing” (does anyone use that phrase anymore? Or did I just date myself?) Anyways… being persuaded really just means that we are human and show signs of empathy and emotion. If we are being persuaded by something, we are connected with it on some level. Maybe we agreed with someone’s opinion and decided to investigate ourselves to develop our viewpoint? Or maybe we just liked something we saw on TV and wanted to try it out. These are both different levels of the Elaboration Likelihood Model.
This model describes the central and peripheral routes and how we respond to each option. The center route is when we are very involved in the media we are consuming and are critically thinking and responding to the topic. We’re interested, to say the least. On the other hand, the peripheral route is kind of what it sounds like. If something is in our peripheral vision, it is not truly in focus, but it is still there, and we may or may not be aware of it. This follows the same concept. We are consuming something more passively and maybe more relaxed or unbiased towards the topic because it is something that is more surface level. Both of these avenues describe how we can be persuaded due to how elaborate our connections are. See how that connected?
Now, like many, or really all, theories, they can be manipulated to get inside people’s minds to influence them from a consumer standpoint. Looking more in-depth at the analysis of the model, we can see in the image below, the path we can follow to apply which method we are talking about or want to use.
From targeted and engaging advertising to general content consumption by keeping users on a social media app scrolling mindlessly, the Elaboration Likelihood Model can be used to tap into a user’s mind and impact their decisions and thoughts. So how do we use this as a media practitioner? Or simply as someone who wants to be part of informing the public, which we can consider loosely as an *influencer*.
Not everyone will be interested in every topic. Our concern here would not be to reach as many people as possible. However, we do want to determine who we want our audience to be, and from there, we can decide which route we want to use. If we are trying to inform the public about a fun event to get involved in the community, starting with an advertisement to catch someone’s eye through bright and colorful pictures or even a funny clip could be beneficial. This would be using the peripheral route by letting them subconsciously enjoy the content before, or without, making a critical connection.
An example would be the “Got Milk?” campaign we may remember from being plastered around during the 1990s and extending till today. They usually showed a celebrity with the famous milk mustache as a fun advertisement that did not require a high effort of effort by the consumer. All they had to do want to convince the public to buy milk and they chose a fun way to do so without requiring their audience to be analytical about their choice.
Adversely, we could use more of a logical or factual stance through the central route to get people to sign a petition or persuade them to buy something. To ensure they remain engaged since the route requires more critical thinking, we can input mental checkpoints, like a question, to keep them thinking and relating back to their life or situation to imagine themselves as a part of the content. Differentiating these two routes is the first step in organizing a successful campaign, advertisement, or publication. From there, we can use the natural human behavior of being influenced to make our impact. Do you use one of these methods? I’m sure you have but perhaps were not aware. Maybe because you were influenced?
Geddes, J. (2015, December 31). Elaboration Likelihood Model Theory — Using ELM to Get inside the User’s Mind. Interaction Design Foundation. https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/article/elaboration-likelihood-model-theory-using-elm-to-get-inside-the-user-s-mind
Hopper, E. (2019, July 03). What Is the Elaboration Likelihood Model in Psychology? ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/elaboration-likelihood-model-4686036
James, A. (2022, February 01). What Can We Learn From Central Route Persuasion? BetterHelp. https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/persuasion/ what-can-we-learn-from-central-route-persuasion/
Rosenberry, J. & Vicker, L. A. (2017). Applied Mass Communication Theory: A Guide for Media Practitioners. Routledge: Taylor & Francis Group