Elaboration Likelihood Model – Critical Application

When elaboration likelihood is high, audience is more likely to engage in a central route processing.  If elaboration likelihood is low, peripheral processing is more likely to occur. (Petty & Cacioppo, 1986a, 1986b; Petty & Wegener, 1998, 1999)

Central Processing – As I walked into the supermarket, my first and foremost goal was to obtain important items that we consume on daily basis. Eggs, milk, juice, etc. I chose to go organic. Influenced by promotional videos and advertisements about organic foods are not always responsible, I particularly scrutinized the products on the shelves, reading the fine print that must meet my standards to make me feel good and responsible customer. For example, I bought eggs that are free ranged, raised in a natural environment, with identification card locating the place and time of the hen who laid the eggs. Happy eggs, healthy breakfast. I swear, healthy, happy eggs taste so much better than the eggs from a hen that possibly never seen the light of day.

Peripheral processing – I went to the supermarket to get some seasonal products (pumpkins, cider, spice) and noticed a few well packaged, strategically placed products that caught my attention, I put it in the cart to taste at home. As I was walking between the aisles, I noticed a lady giving out samples. She reminded me of my mom, and I tasted the meatloaf she was promoting. I liked it and without any argument I decided to take it home. As I was standing in the checkout, I noticed the York Peppermint Patty, my comfort food (candy, starbucks stop, etc.), which I had to have because it makes me feel good. Shopping is done! Happy me, happy family!

What patterns did you see in purchasing behavior? (Do these patterns seem to be related to gender? Brand? Type of product? Price? Something else?)

The answer is YES to gender, brand, type of product, price, packaging or promotion, strategic placement on the shelf and in relation to the area inside the store (by the register, on the side of the isle, etc.). I noticed my shopping was more of a science project to me separating central processing from peripheral processing and applying that to my final product choice. The core list of the groceries was purchased based on scrutinized research and detailed processing of the arguments that determined quality of the product, price, sustainability of the packaging and responsibility factor that determined how the product was made (for example: sustainably harvested and humanely processed). My eye looked for all those keywords and I noticed the length of the process was taking way more time then the decision process based on peripheral route.

What type of specific topics do you typically deal with using peripheral processing? Central processing? How such factors as motivation, ability, and situational influences may influence elaboration likelihood.

According to the authors of “Elaboration Likelihood Model.” elaboration likelihood is influenced by motivation and ability. High involvement in the issue, allows elaboration on the merit of the message. On the other hand if individual is not particularly involved in an issue, the individual should be less motivated to elaborate on the message and consequently more likely to rely on peripheral cues. Situational and Personal factors influence elaboration likelihood. Also, as one moves up the elaboration likelihood continuum, there is a trade-off between central and peripheral processes in their impact on attitudes. (trusted or not trusted sources – source attractiveness).

Elaboration Likelihood Model Continuum – the framework for understanding different processes that influence attitudes of the audience.

Peripheral processing is a less thinking and more on-the-fly decision making that perhaps may cause buyer’s remorse sooner than the process of elaborate careful thinking. True, when I noticed a store staff giving out samples of the product I really undermined all of my proactive sustainable approach to healthy purchasing and went on a “periphery” to taste the product and to take it home to sample. Why? Perhaps the comfort or tradition, or attractiveness to the messenger. Is this effective? Perhaps. Will it create a potential future purchase? Perhaps. Although the long-term determination would be difficult to predict due to other factors kick in after the initial response, perhaps even justifying to never buy this product again, after careful, scrutinized study of the label.

With Central Process Persuasion, the long-term effect is almost promised. If product appeal to the audience that motivates the audience to use central processing, this will determine the merits and the likelihood of attitude change is less likely.


Petty, R. E., and J. T. Cagioppo. “Issue Involvement Can Increase or Decrease Persuasion by Enhancing Message Relevant Cognitive Response.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 37, 10 (1979): 1915-26.

Booth-Butterfield, Steve, and Welbourne, Jennifer “The Elaboration Likelihood Model. Its Impact on Persuasion Theory and Research.” The Persuasion Handbook 9 (2002): 155-172.

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