Petty And Cacioppo’s Elaboration Probability Model

An explanatory model that reflects how persuasion works in discussions, marketing, etc.

Petty and Cacioppo's elaboration probability model

Persuasion is the ability of some people to transmit ideas, and that these are finally shared, accepted and disseminated by the receiver of the message.

Thus, persuasion implies the ability to convince others, and is a tool that is used especially in the field of advertising, sales and marketing.

The Elaboration Probability Model was created by Petty and Cacioppo (1983, 1986) and addresses the issue of persuasion, within social and organizational psychology, and tries to explain how people are persuaded, and in what way. Let’s see what it consists of.

Elaboration probability model: characteristics

The elaboration probability model was a milestone in persuasion studies, since it integrated previous attitude models. His goal was to create a model that would bring together the contributions of previous persuasive theories.

The theories that agglutinate the model of the probability of elaboration are: Yale’s communication theory based on the sequence: source, message, channel and receiver, McGuire’s theory (1968), the contributions of implication (Krugman, 1966 ), the social judgment theory (Sherif et al., 1981), the heuristic model (Chaiken, 1980) and, to a lesser extent, the expectation-by-value models (Ajzen, 1975).

It was in the 1980s (in the decade of its creation) when the model of the probability of elaboration was empirically demonstrated. This was done from the study of advertisements, which were used as experimental stimuli.

Although 30 years have passed since the model appeared, today it is still being applied for different investigations, such as in the study of persuasion on the Internet.

Components: Persuasion Aspects

There are four central ideas or components in Petty and Cacioppo’s model of elaboration probability.

1. Continuum

People’s attitudes or other judgments can be modified to varying degrees, through a continuum of elaboration, from “low” to “high.” That is, you can modify your beliefs in a slight or intense way, including the points in between.

2. Specific processes of change

Along this continuum , various specific processes of change can occur.

For example, there is a classical conditioning or a simple exposition (the mere exposition effect), when the required thought is low or not very elaborate. These processes will be at the low end of the continuum.

On the contrary, models of cognitive response and expectation by value are produced when a high degree of thinking is required (more complex thinking, which requires greater cognitive effort). These will be at the high end of the continuum.

2.1. Routes

At the brain level, there are and are used two types of routes: peripheral and central.

2.1.1. Peripheral route

A peripheral path is followed when the processes involved are at a low level of the continuum. This route focuses on peripheral aspects of the message, that is, less important aspects, details, etc.

Following a peripheral route implies little involvement on the part of the recipient, less mental effort, and short-term changes in their attitudes.

2.1.2. Central route

In contrast, a central path is followed when the processes involved are at a high level of the continuum.

This route involves greater involvement and mental effort on the part of the receiver, who focuses on more central and elaborate aspects of the message, as well as lasting changes in their attitudes (long term).

2.1.3. Complementarity of the routes

The fact of finally persuading the receiver is determined by a mixture of the two processes; In other words, there is no separation or dichotomy, but both processes complement each other according to the characteristics of the message and other variables.

3. Consequences of the trial

The result of the processing levels (whether they are high or low), will determine the consequences of the receiver’s judgment. That is, if the judgment is based on thinking about the merits (the merits of what the issuer wants to persuade us about), there are more chances that such judgment will persist over time, better resist attempts at change and generate consequences for other judgments and behaviors.

The model of the probability of elaboration, according to the variables that may affect the attitude of the receiver, organizes several specific processes.

For example, the appeal of the source or felt emotion will influence the amount of thinking a person has, placing them at a point on the continuum further up or further down.

However, if circumstances have previously placed the person at the low level, the variables can serve as simple keys, affecting attitudes in a direction that is consistent with their valence.

On the contrary, if the person is at the high level of the continuum, there are three other ways in which the variable can affect judgments:

  • By argument or evidence ; for example, attractiveness or felt emotion
  • Affecting the valence of thoughts that come to mind, for example more positive thoughts,
  • Affecting structural factors of the thoughts generated; for example to have more confidence towards the own thoughts.

Model variables

There are several variables in the elaboration probability model, which determine how the message will be processed and if persuasion will eventually occur:

  • Processing motivation / Informational need.
  • Processability.
  • Elaboration depth of thought.
  • Positivity of the cognitive response.

Bibliographic references:

  • Petty, R. and Cacioppo, J. (1983). Central and peripheral routes to persuasion. application to advertising. In: Percy, L. and Woodside, A. (eds). Advertising and consumer psychology. Lexington Books, Mass.
  • Stiff, J. (1985). Cognitive processing of Persuasive Message Cues. A Meta Analytic Review of the Effects of Supporting Information on Attitudes. Michigan: Michigan State University.
  • Hogg, M. (2010). Social psychology. VAUGHAN GRAHAM M. PANAMERICANA, Publisher: PANAMERICANA
  • León, JJ (2014). Validity and extensions of the manufacturing probability model (ELM). For a persuasive field theory in advertising. adComunica. Journal of Strategies, Trends and Innovation in Communication, 8.

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