Chapter 1
 Chapter 2
 Chapter 3
 Chapter 4
 Chapter 5
 Chapter 6
 Chapter 7
 Chapter 8
 Chapter 9
 Chapter 10
 Chapter 11
 Chapter 12




This chapter introduces students to a core concept in the book: cognitive processing of persuasive messages. It explains the role that process plays in persuasive communication effects. Taking a theoretical thrust, the chapter introduces the Cognitive Response Approach, the Heuristic-Systematic Model, and the mainstay of the chapter, the Elaboration Likelihood Model of Persuasion. The chapter is designed to explain how people mentally process persuasive messages, the role that central and peripheral processes play in persuasion, complexities in studying cognitive processes, and practical applications.


Cognitive processing of messages
Yale Attitude Change Approach
Cognitive Response Approach to Persuasion
Inoculation Theory
Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM)
Heuristic-Systematic Model
Central route to persuasion
Peripheral route to persuasion
Multiple functions of variables in ELM
Criticisms of ELM


Yale Attitude Change Approach: the first social scientific program of research on the psychology of persuasion. Launched by Carl I. Hovland, the Yale research program systematically examined the impact of source, message, channel, and receiver variables on persuasion.
Cognitive Response Approach to Persuasion: a cognitively-oriented perspective on persuasion that emphasizes the role individuals' own mental reactions to a message play in the persuasion process. It stimulated much research in the 1970s and 1980s, especially at Ohio State University.
Forewarning: a complex cognitive effect that occurs when a persuader warns people that they will soon be exposed to a persuasive communication.
Distraction Hypothesis: the assertion that distraction from a message facilitates persuasion by blocking the dominant cognitive responses to a message. Distraction can facilitate persuasion by interfering with the production of counterarguments to a message.
Inoculation Theory: a theory of resistance to persuasion that emphasizes that exposure to a small dose of arguments on a topic, coupled with criticism of these arguments, can strengthen resistance to persuasion.
Elaboration Likelihood Model: a major cognitive theory of persuasion that emphasizes that individuals process messages through one of two routes (central or peripheral); processing strategy has important implications for message effects and persistence of persuasion over time.
Heuristic-Systematic Model: an influential model of persuasion that, like the ELM, stipulates that there are dual routes to persuasion (heuristic or systematic), which in turn influence the persuasion process.
Heuristic: simple decision-making rule that is typically invoked under low involvement.
Involvement: personal relevance; perceived personal relevance of a message.


  1. What are the main aspects of the Yale Attitude Change Approach, Cognitive Response Approach to Persuasion, and Elaboration Likelihood Model? How do they differ?
  2. The ELM has become increasingly complex; at the same time, it has stimulated criticisms. Focus on complications and criticisms, giving examples of the multiple functions corollary or notion that a particular variable can perform different functions. Does the corollary illuminate complexities in persuasion or lead to muddy, untestable hypotheses, as critics argue?
  3. Do you think there really are two distinct routes to persuasion, or perhaps just one route that varies in the degree to which it encourages elaboration?
  4. When do persuaders' use of peripheral cues become unethical? If a message recipient is unable to process a message in only the most peripheral or superficial way, because of lack of motivation or cognitive ability, does this make emphasis on peripheral cues unethical?


  1. Let's say you are distracted from paying attention to a political message with which you disagree. According to the cognitive response approach, distraction should lead to more persuasion for which of these reasons:
    a. the distraction gets associated with the message
    b. the distraction is sexually arousing
    c. the distraction blocks mental counterarguments
    d. the distracting stimuli serves as a positive reinforcer
  2. Let's say a persuader wants to use inoculation theory to increase teens' resistance to peer drug appeals. What does the theory suggest you do?
    a. expose teens to pro-drug appeals and offer counterarguments to these messages
    b. expose teenagers only to persuasive anti-drug ads
    c. build teens' self-confidence through social learning
    d. let teenagers buy as many drugs as they want until they discover that getting high is deadly
  3. Which of these best describes the Elaboration Likelihood Model?
    a. the model says that people process information deeply and cognitively
    b. the model argues that people process differently, depending on motivation and ability
    c. the model argues people peripherally process communications
    d. the ELM suggests that persuasive communications influence attitudes the more they reduce basic drives
  4. In a low involving campaign for political office, candidates would be best advised to do which of these:
    a. develop a thoughtful set of issue arguments
    b. hype endorsements by highly credible sources
    c. feature messages that have many arguments
    d. a and b
    e. b and c
  5. Systematic processing is most similar to which of these:
    a. central route
    b. peripheral route
    c. heuristics
    d. fear
  6. Let's say you are interested in physical attractiveness effects in the ELM. What does the model say about attractiveness?
    a. attractiveness serves as a peripheral cue, which means it is effective only under low involvement
    b. attractiveness is of little consequence since it does not stimulate deep, central thinking
    c. attractiveness works through bio-cognitive processes, traceable to evolution
    d. attractiveness can serve as a cue, argument, or catalyst to thought, depending on the individual's motivation or ability

Answers: 1: c; 2: a, 3: b, 4: e, 5: a, 6: d


  1. P.T. Barnum once said a sucker is born every minute. The ELM's emphasis on peripheral processes similarly suggests that canny persuaders can influence individuals in subtle, sometimes-devious, ways. Explore the use of peripheral cues in mass or interpersonal persuasion. Cast a large net over peripheral cues, considering source credibility appeals (endorsements), number of arguments, association of a product with a pleasant message, music, smells, attractiveness, nonverbal behavior, and clothing. Analyze commercials and infomercials, or observe persuasion as it occurs in stores, sales encounters, and low involvement interpersonal settings. Catalogue the wide use of peripheral cues in advertising or everyday interpersonal influence settings.
  2. Explore how politicians vary their messages, depending on the nature of voter involvement and ability. Explore whether advertising and media appeals differ, depending on whether the election is high-involving (typically a presidential race, controversial issue race, or property tax referendum) or low-involving (typically races involving local or state representatives). Or focus on a campus election. Explain the basic ideas of the ELM to candidates running for election, and ask them if they use different appeals to target students who differ in involvement or ability. (Careful: They might solicit your help in their campaign!)


This chapter has focused on the powerful role that thinking plays in persuasion. Some health experts have gone so far as to suggest that thinking - and cognitive responses - can actually cure disease. The next article presents evidence that this is the case.

"Placebos prove so powerful even experts are surprised," by Sandra Blakeslee, The New York Times, October 13, 1998, pp. D1, D4.

This article cited below questions the power of placebos:
"Placebo effects is more myth than science, a study says," by Gina Kolata, The New York Times, May 24, 2001, pp. A1, A19.

Outline the argument that placebos can cure pain because "thinking makes it so," to quote Shakespeare. Draw on examples from the first article. Criticize this viewpoint based on the second newspaper article. Which view do you think comes closest to the truth?

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