Academic Writing

Elaboration Likelihood Model

Cacioppo and Petty intended ELM to be a generic theory on persuasion and attitude change. The theory is based on two assumptions about attitudes. The first is that there are people who hold correct attitudes. Correct attitudes are based on rational thought and help people in their daily functions. The second form of attitudes are based less on personal thought and more on external influences— especially on subject matter authorities. The two mental strategies that ELM poses based on these assumptions are central and peripheral routes of processing persuasive messaging.

Central route processing requires involvement by the subject when evaluating persuasive messaging. During central route processing, messaging is actively compared to prior knowledge of the matter and finally integrated or rejected based on mindful evaluation. In the peripheral processing route, participants are less motivated to self-analyze information and are influenced by peripheral cues based on source credibility or attractiveness. People cannot be categorically bucketed as central or peripheral information processes, so it is understood that people use both cues, perhaps one more than the other, in certain situations.

The chapter is more focused on how people react to political messaging and suggests that those who use more central processing are “elite” information processors compared to information “non-elites” , who are thought to be easily influenced by popularity or popular consensus. In other words, information elites do not only depend on the media to form political opinions, whereas nonelites use media as the only source when it comes to forming opinions.

“The effects of Online Reviews …”  explores how online reviews are used by males and females using the ELM models of persuasion. Here, based on prior research on gender and online behavior, paying attention to the quality of reviews is thought to be indicative of central processing (elite), whereas being persuaded by the quantity/popularity of the reviews as being indicative of peripheral (non-elite) processing.

The study, conducted in China, found that men displayed central processing when they were purchasing heuristically relevant items and were driven by the quality of the reviews more than women. Women were found to be driven by the number of reviews when basing their purchase decision. The study also found that for purchases driven by hedonic value, neither gender displayed a significance between review quality and quantity.

Being an advertising and marketing professional, I was interested in learning more about how this theory could be applied to e-commerce. The study is not without limitations, but the findings reinforce former findings of how men and women are different when it comes to persuasion processing.

ELM is a very relevant theory for digital marketers. As web and social media analytics tend to gather more and more user data, the room for influencing purchase behavior increases. ELM can be applied to personalize marketing and advertising materials to prospects. For example, users that are identified as better suited for central processing cues can receive advertising content that dives deeper into advanced use cases and configurations of a product while users that are more peripheral driven can receive more celebrity testimonials and “product in-action” type of content.

Furthermore, ELM can be used to identify purchasing behavior and product-research-preferences of users, so advertisers and marketers can serve relevant and compelling advertisements, which in turn will secure a better return on investment for advertisers while providing a more relevant ad experience for prospects.

So, my question to you is, do you think men tend to care about the quality of reviews more than women when they purchase something that serves a heuristic purpose online? The study seems to hint that men tend to care about review quality when it comes to items that are needed for practical purposes whereas they might tend to be less caring when they are purchasing something for fun. According to the study, women tend to be more driven by the number of reviews and less caring about how good the reviews are. Do you as a man or woman find yourself behaving similarly when you purchase something online?


Luo, Y., & Ye, Q. (2019). The Effects of Online Reviews, Perceived Value, and Gender on Continuance Intention to Use International Online Outshopping Website: An Elaboration Likelihood Model Perspective. Journal of International Consumer Marketing, 31(3), 250–269.