Ponder This: Elaboration Likelihood Model Theory

You may think you voted in last week’s ASWU elections based upon candidate qualifications. However, you were likely persuaded by factors you are unaware of, which Elaboration Likelihood Model Theory calls peripheral routes of persuasion. People can respond to a persuasive message centrally (carefully making a decision based upon an argument’s merits) and peripherally (making a decision based on factors other than the argument’s merit).

Individuals process peripherally for reasons such as laziness and prioritizing time for more important decisions. They may also recognize a message contains many arguments but choose not to think about them one by one. People may feel unable to think about the message, but that it is OK to agree with the message for other reasons than the message’s merit, according to Dr. William Benoit’s article in the Communication Institute for Online Scholarship.

Peripheral cues are often used in temporary decisions, such as voting. Peripheral cues were present during the ASWU election, even if the candidates were unaware they employed them, and if voters were unaware they used them in making a decision.

One cue is social proof, the idea that everyone else is doing it. Social proof was achieved with candidates using Facebook to add peers to a Vote For Candidate X page or friends of candidates posting comments expressing their support of the candidate. The problem here is a candidate’s qualification for a position may not be accurately reflected in the number of people posting about them on Facebook.

Another cue is liking the person presenting the argument. For most students, free food and desserts helped make candidates more likable. However, a candidate’s baking skills are not a strong correlation to their ability to be competent at a position.

A third cue is authority, such as a candidate saying to vote for him or her without giving reasons  why. Do this action not because I provided reasons to, but because I said so. Students should vote for a candidate for reasons relating to their ability to serve in the position, not because the candidate said to.

By now, students probably forgot candidate stances or why they voted for certain candidates. Peripheral cues likely influenced their vote more than they realized. In big decisions such as picking student leaders of Whitworth, students should go above being informed on candidates. They should be informed of the subtle attempts candidates make trying to get their vote.

Madison Garner 


Contact Madison Garner at mgarner16@my.whitworth.edu

Media literacy needed to combat warped perceptions shown by television messages

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