When are you likely to engage your central-processing abilities in examining a message?

Elaboration Likelihood Model

The Elaboration Likelihood model asserts that you can either peripherally or centrally process information that might change your attitude.

When you process information centrally, it means you focus on the content of a message, such as its logic, or lack thereof. For instance, you read as much information as possible about the product, candidate, or service before logically weighing its pros and cons.

On the other hand, when you process information peripherally, you attend to the information that is marginal to the content of the message. Information gathered peripherally includes information about the messenger or the length of the message.

It seems that when you have limited time and energy, you are more likely to engage your peripheral-processing ability because it does not involve focusing deeply on the information. You require more mental energy and time to focus deeply on any information.

Media and Information Processing

The paper must be neatly formatted, double-spaced with a one-inch margin on the top, bottom, and sides of each page. When submitting hard copy, be sure to use white paper and print out using dark ink. If it is hard to read your essay, it will also be hard to follow your argument.
Television and Internet advertisers take advantage of your peripheral-processing abilities to persuade you.

The advertisements on television and the Internet are flashy, brief, and often have an attractive messenger. Television advertisements are narrated in an appealing voice. If the peripheral information, or the messenger, is attractive, you are likely to make positive mental associations with the service or product being advertised and be persuaded. Time is limited in these formats; therefore, you are less likely to consider the quality or soundness of the message.

When are you likely to engage your central-processing abilities in examining a message?

We discussed that when time is limited, you are likely to process information or messages peripherally.

In contrast, when you have time to examine a message closely, you are more likely to engage your central-processing abilities. In this mode, you are more likely to question and critically evaluate the message for logic or relevance to yourself. As a result, an advertisement in the print media—rather than relying on superficial content—will often appeal to your central-processing ability and seek to persuade you with logic and expertise.

Consider how the target audience affects the advertiser’s choice of appealing to either the peripheral—or the central-processing ability.

Think of an advertisement for toys. Are the target children likely to logically weigh the pros and cons of a toy purchase? This will probably not happen. Instead, the children will look at who is in the advertisement. For example, Ronald McDonald, Barney, or a star of the Harry Potter movies is a good choice of actor. The children will focus on factors such as how attractive the toy is and how bright and colorful it looks. On the other hand, if you advertise a product in TIME magazine, who are your readers likely to be? Most probably, they will be college-educated professionals. As a result, you will want to provide more text with information about the pros and cons of the product or service. This is because readers can spend as much time reviewing the advertisement as they need to, unlike the advertisements conveyed via television, radio, or the Internet.

Post-Decisional Dissonance

Have you ever purchased something and later regretted making the purchase? If so, you have experienced what social psychologists term post-decisional dissonance or post-purchase cognitive dissonance when the decision involves a purchase.

What did you do to alleviate the feeling that you made the wrong decision?

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