Theories micro level

Elaboration Likelihood Model

motivation and processing ability determine attitude change

History and Orientation

Petty and Cacioppo (1979) discovered, in contrast to social judgment-involvement theory, that high levels of involvement do not invariably decrease persuasion.

Core Assumptions and Statements

Core: The ELM is based on the idea that attitudes are important because attitudes guide decisions and other behaviors. While attitudes can result from a number of things, persuasion is a primary source. The model features two routes of persuasive influence: central and peripheral. The ELM accounts for the differences in persuasive impact produced by arguments that contain ample information and cogent reasons as compared to messages that rely on simplistic associations of negative and positive attributes to some object, action or situation. The key variable in this process is involvement, the extent to which an individual is willing and able to ‘think’ about the position advocated and its supporting materials. When people are motivated and able to think about the content of the message, elaboration is high. Elaboration involves cognitive processes such as evaluation, recall, critical judgment, and inferential judgment. When elaboration is high, the central persuasive route is likely to occur; conversely, the peripheral route is the likely result of low elaboration. Persuasion may also occur with low elaboration. The receiver is not guided by his or her assessment of the message, as in the case of the central route, but the receiver decides to follow a principle or a decision-rule which is derived from the persuasion situation.

Conceptual Model


Elaboration Likelihood Model
Source: Petty, R.E., Kasmer, J., Haugtvedt, C. & Cacioppo, J. (1987)

Favorite Methods

Reader-experiments. Questionnaires (about arguments used in a text, brand recall, source credibility etc.)

Scope and Application

Advertisement-research (printed media, television etc.), psychological research. This theory is promising because it integrates an array of variables into a single explanation of persuasion. It addresses factors that explain why and when messages and self-motivated efforts are more or less likely to lead to attitude formation.


To be added.


Key publications

  • Cacioppo, J.T. & Petty, R.E. (1979). Effects of message repetition and position on cognitive response, recall and persuasion. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 27, 97-109. 
  • Cacioppo, J.T., Harking, S.G., and Petty, R.E. (1981). Attitude, Cognitive Response and Behavior, Cognitive Responses in Persuasion (31-77). New Jersey: Hillsdale.
  • Petty, R.E. & Cacioppo, J.T. (1986). The Elaboration Likelihood Model of persuasion. New York: Academic Press.
  • Petty, R.E., and Krosnick, J.A. (1995). Attitude strength: Antecedents and consequences. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum Associates.
  • Petty, R.E. & Wegener, D.T. (1998). Attitude change. In Gilbert, D., Fiske, S. & Lindzey, G. (Eds.). The Handbook of Social Psychology (4th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.

See also Interpersonal Communication and Relations, Health Communication, Public Relations, Advertising, Marketing and Consumer Behavior