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The Peripheral Route To Persuasion: Understanding How We Make Decisions

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    Have you ever found yourself convinced by an argument, not because of the strength of the evidence presented, but because of who presented it? Or perhaps you were swayed by a flashy advertisement, without really thinking about the product being sold. These instances of persuasion are examples of the peripheral route to persuasion, a process that occurs when individuals make judgments based on superficial cues. Rather than carefully evaluating the arguments presented.

    The Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM) of persuasion, developed by Richard E. Petty and John Cacioppo, posits that persuasion can occur through two routes: the central route and the peripheral route. The central route to persuasion occurs when individuals carefully think about and evaluate the arguments presented in a persuasive message. The peripheral route, on the other hand, occurs when individuals make judgments based on superficial cues. Such as the source of the message or the way it is presented.

    Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM) of Persuasion

    The Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM) of persuasion is a dual-process theory of persuasion that was developed by Richard E. Petty and John Cacioppo. The model posits that persuasion can occur through two routes: the central route and the peripheral route.

    The central route to persuasion occurs when individuals carefully think about and evaluate the arguments presented in a persuasive message. This form of persuasion engages a person’s conscious thinking. And relies on them actively assessing the message along with the accompanying supportive arguments.

    On the other hand, the peripheral route to persuasion occurs when individuals make judgments based on superficial cues, such as the source of the message or the way it is presented.

    Blue and white slide showing the differences between central and peripheral route persuasion.

    The ELM suggests that the route taken will depend on an individual’s motivation and ability to engage in elaboration, or critical thinking, about the message. It is also up to you, the persuader, to decide which route works for a given situation. This is why it is important to understand how these modes of persuasion operate.


    Peripheral Route to Persuasion

    The peripheral route of persuasion is the process of persuasion that occurs when individuals make judgments based on superficial cues, rather than carefully evaluating the arguments presented. This form of persuasion occurs on the subconscious level of a person’s awareness. The cues that guide their decision-making come to them peripherally.

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    This route is less cognitively demanding than the central route, as it relies on the audience’s ability to be influenced by factors that are not directly related to the message itself. It is considered more effective when the audience is not highly invested in the topic, or when the message is presented in a low-involvement setting. Examples of peripheral cues include the use of celebrity endorsements, catchy jingles, or emotional appeals.

    Compared with central route persuasion, the peripheral route to persuasion relies on external cues. These could be the speaker’s appearance, the design of an advertisement, or other non-verbal suggestions, to influence the audience’s attitude. It is also called the heuristic-systematic model of persuasion.


    Peripheral Route Persuasion Examples

    So, what are some examples of these peripheral cues? One of the most commonly cited examples is the source of a message. We are more likely to be persuaded by someone we perceive as credible or likeable. Similarly, the way a message is presented can also influence our decision making. For example, an advertisement with flashy graphics and catchy music is more likely to grab our attention, and thus, be more effective in persuasion, than a plain text ad.

    Peripheral route persuasion can take many forms, and it can be used in various ways to influence people’s attitudes and behaviors. Specific examples of peripheral route persuasion include:

    Celebrity endorsements: Using a well-known and respected celebrity to endorse a product can create a positive association with the product, even if the celebrity has no expertise in the field the product is related to.

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    Package design: The design and appearance of a product’s packaging can create a positive impression and influence a consumer’s decision to purchase the product.

    Branding: A well-established brand can create a sense of trust and reliability, leading consumers to make a purchase without fully evaluating the product’s features or benefits.

    Social proof: Showcasing that many people have used or endorsed a product can create a sense of popularity and desirability, influencing a person’s decision to purchase.

    Music and lighting in a store: The type of music and lighting used in a store can create a certain atmosphere and influence a person’s mood, and in turn, their purchasing decisions.

    These are just a few examples, but peripheral route persuasion can take many forms, and it can be used in various ways to influence people’s attitudes and behaviors.


    Convincing Someone To Do Something Using This Method

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    Convincing someone to do something using the peripheral route to persuasion involves using external cues, such as the speaker’s credibility, the design of an advertisement, or other non-verbal cues to influence the audience’s attitude. Here are some tips to get this done effectively.

    Connect with your audience emotionally. This can be done through the use of music, images, or storytelling. These aspects make the message more appealing and increase the chances of persuading people.

    Pay attention to the tone and language you employ. Using a confident and enthusiastic tone, along with persuasive language, can increase the chances of success.

    The principle of social proof can be used to your advantage. Showing that others have already taken the desired action, such as testimonials, can increase the perceived value of the idea. And make it more likely that the audience will do the same.

    It’s important to keep in mind that the peripheral route is less cognitively demanding than the central route. It is considered more effective when the audience is not highly invested in the topic. Or when the message is presented in a low-involvement setting.


    Peripheral Route Persuasion MCAT & Psychology Definition

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    The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) sometimes includes questions related to the ELM. And will get into details on the definitions and uses of central and peripheral persuasion.

    In that context, the peripheral route to persuasion is a type of persuasion that occurs when an individual relies on peripheral cues, rather than the content of the message being presented, to make a decision or form an attitude.

    An important differentiation between the two types of persuasion is that the central type involves a subject’s conscious mind. Whereas in the peripheral type, it involves unconscious cues or mental shortcuts that people take in their decision-making.

    Peripheral cues can include things like physical appearance, social status, or the source of the message. These cues are thought to be less cognitively demanding than evaluating the content of the message. As such, they are more likely to be used in situations where an individual has limited attention or motivation.


    Ethical Use Of The Peripheral Route To Persuasion

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    It’s important to note that the peripheral route to persuasion is not inherently bad. In some cases, it can be more efficient for us to make decisions based on superficial cues, rather than carefully evaluating each argument. For example, if we are trying to decide what to have for dinner, we might be more likely to choose a restaurant based on its location or reputation. Rather than reading through each menu item and evaluating the nutritional value of each dish.

    This route to persuasion can be used ethically in certain circumstances. If the peripheral route of persuasion is being used to make a message more memorable or appealing, without necessarily providing any false or misleading information. As long as the message is truthful and not misleading, the peripheral cues are ethical.

    It can be used to make a message more memorable or appealing, if the message is truthful and not misleading. However, it can be unethical when it is used to mislead or manipulate individuals.

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    Unethical Uses

    The peripheral route of persuasion can also be used unethically, particularly when it is used to mislead or manipulate individuals. For example, if an advertisement uses peripheral cues to make a false or misleading claim about a product. Or if a political campaign uses peripheral cues to hide the candidate’s lack of qualifications or controversial policies.

    However, the peripheral route can also lead to problematic decision making, particularly in cases where the message being presented is misleading or inaccurate. In these instances, it’s important to be aware of the potential for peripheral cues to influence our decision making. And to make a conscious effort to evaluate the arguments presented.

    Central Route to Persuasion

    It should be noted that there is another route to persuasion called the central route. It is a cognitive process that occurs when individuals carefully think about and evaluate the arguments presented in a persuasive message. When people are highly motivated and able to engage in elaboration, they are more likely to take the central route to persuasion. This means that they will carefully consider the message’s content, evaluate the strength of the evidence, and form their own judgments.

    The central route to persuasion is more likely to result in a lasting attitude change, because individuals are more likely to accept a message when they have actively thought about it. And have come to the conclusion that it is true and relevant. This route is also more likely to result in a deeper understanding of the topic being discussed.

    Conclusions

    In conclusion, the peripheral route to persuasion is a process that occurs when individuals make judgments based on superficial cues, rather than carefully evaluating the arguments presented. Understanding the peripheral route can help us make more informed decisions. And avoid us being swayed by misleading or inaccurate messages.


    Shaun Mendonsa, PhD is an influencing expert and pharmaceutical development leader. He writes on the topics of influence and persuasion, and develops next generation drugs in human pharma by advising international pharmaceutical CROs and CMOs. He can be reached at smendonsa@master-influencer.com.


    Keywords

    Decision Making, Cognitive Sciences; Social Proof, Social Psychology; Heuristics; Central Route Persuasion; Peripheral Route Persuasion

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