Persuasion header image
The Nature of Attitudes and Persuasion

The Yale Approach

Congruity Theory

Cognitive Dissonance Theory

Social Judgment/ Involvement Theory

Information Integration Theory

Theory of Reasoned Action

Elaboration Likelihood Model


Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM)

Petty and Cacioppo's Elaboration Likelihood Model
Two "Routes" to Persuasion
Involvement and Cognitive Responses
Argument Quality
Argument Quantity
Source Factors
Evaluation of the ELM
Petty and Cacioppo's Elaboration Likelihood Model
Traditional approaches to persuasion, like the Yale model, tend to assume that persuasion occurs when listeners (or viewers) learn a message. If you learn, and remember, the ideas from a message, you are likely to be persuaded by it. On the other hand, if you do not learn, and cannot remember, the ideas from a message, you will not be persuaded by it. Often persuasion is accompanied by learning, so there is a reason to think that learning could be associated with persuasion.

However, learning is not always part of persuasion. Sometimes, for example, an advertisement is so annoying that we just cannot forget it -- and we hate the product or company that sponsored it. Here, we learned the message but were just not persuaded by it. Other times we may hear or see the beginning of a message and then start thinking about the topic without paying much attention to the message. For example, when I see a public service ad about buckling up my seatbelt, once I recognize the topic (wearing seat belts) I start thinking about one of my relatives who was thrown through the windshield of a car -- and suffered serious cuts to the face. These thoughts revitalize my determination to always wear my seatbelt. But then I realize the commercial is over and I havenít paid any attention to it. I donít remember the points that it made. I was persuaded: My attitudes toward seat belts were reinforced or strengthened. If the commercial had not prompted me to think about my relative I would not have reinforced my attitude, but I did not learn anything from the message. These two ideas -- that we can learn a message but not be persuaded by it and that we can be persuaded without paying attention to or learning a message -- set the stage for the Cognitive Response model of persuasion.

The Cognitive Response approach states that receivers, or audience members, can be active participants in the persuasion process (
Perloff & Brock, 1980). The Cognitive Response Model argues that persuasion is not caused directly by messages; we are only persuaded if we have thoughts that agree with the message. Therefore, persuasive messages create attitude change by encouraging listeners to have favorable thoughts. This means that if we want to understand persuasion we have to understand what receivers are likely to think about a message: (1) how many thoughts they have about a message and (2) whether those thoughts are favorable to the message (which means persuasion is happening) or unfavorable to the message (which means persuasion is not occurring).

To return to the hypothetical examples, the thoughts I had in response to the annoying commercial were unfavorable and I was not persuaded by it, even though I learned that stupid commercial by heart. On the other hand, my thoughts in response to the seat belt commercial were favorable and I was persuaded without paying attention to, or learning, the message. Of course, if I do learn a persuasive message and am persuaded by it, I will have favorable thoughts. The Cognitive Response Model explains how persuasion occurs, or does not occur, in all of these situations.

There are two main versions of the Cognitive Response Model. One was developed by
Chaiken (1980) and is called the Heuristic and Systemic Processing Theory. More work, however, has been done on the Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM) developed by Petty and Cacioppo (Petty & Cacioppo, 1981; Petty, Ostrom, & Brock, 1981). I will focus this discussion on Petty and Cacioppoís ELM because more research examines it.

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