The Elaboration Likelihood Theory suggests there are two ways through which information is processed: the central route or the peripheral route. Essentially, the central route is where we spend more time thinking about the item and are more rational when it comes to making decisions. The peripheral route, on the other hand, is where we process information based upon the details that don’t really matter such as our own mood, the style of the message, or who may even be endorsing this message. Knowing how this theory functions is crucial for us in order to understand the manipulation that advertisers may use in advertising products or services.
If that still is confusing for you, I suggest you take a couple minutes and watch the video below that breaks down the elaboration likelihood theory in a very simplistic way and with visuals.
This theory matters for a few reasons. First, it’s important to be cognizant of how people process information, for if we are cognizant of how others process information, we can more easily persuade them. Second, this is important to know because of how ubiquitous these types of persuasions are in the world today. In fact, they have been around since the time of Aristotle and his use of the Rhetorical Triangle.
As shown in the image above, the rhetorical triangle consists of three modes of persuasion: logos, ethos, and pathos. Logos deals with persuading via logic. Ethos persuades people due to their character, credibility, and ethics. And Pathos persuades people with emotional appeals. These are an advertiser’s best friends. To learn more about them, and how to use them more efficiently in your own arguments, go here.
By knowing these modes of persuasion, we can also understand this Elaboration Likelihood Theory even more. Essentially, if we want to persuade people who process things through a central route, we would use logos, or logical appeals. If we want to target individuals who process things more peripherally, then we would turn to Ethos or Pathos. To break it down even more, let’s get into an example.
Let’s say you are advertiser, and you are advertising your Diet Coke from Coca-Cola. Using logos you would highlight features of your diet coke like the fact that it has zero calories, perhaps even zero sugar and caffeine. You may even go one step further and compare it with other diet sodas on the market and explain why it’s better based on the nutritional information. Central processors need this information in buying diet coke in an informed manner.
However, if you are focusing on peripheral processors, you may use this actual advertisement as shown below.
As you can see, Taylor Swift endorses Diet Coke. What does she have to do with Coca-Cola? Absolutely zero. She is there just as a celebrity figure in a testimonial endorsement. This type of advertisement would be using Ethos. They are using Taylor Swift’s credibility to persuade someone to buy diet coke. Similarly, they are also using pathos by producing a “bandwagon” effect. This is seen as a montage of regular people are singing Taylor Swift’s song as she is writing it while drinking a diet coke. Don’t you want to be cool and hip like them? If you said, yes, you are a peripheral processor because you care about what really doesn’t matter when it comes to buying a product like Diet Coke.
What are some examples that you can think of that persuade readers or viewers along these two routes? Share your examples down below along with whether they are aimed towards central processors or peripheral processors.