The application of Hovland-Yale and Elaboration Likelihood models in explaining the persuasive effects of media
1. Hovland Yale Model
Commentary/evaluation of the Hovland-Yale Model
This theory proposes 5 stages an audience go through for an area of the media to be persuasive. These
1) attractive sources are not necessarily the most influential
One criticism of the Hovland-Yale model of persuasion is that celebrities are not as effective as the
model predicts. For example, O’Mahony and Meenaghan (1997) found that celebrity endorsements
were not regarded as convincing or believable. Furthermore, Hume (1992) concluded that celebrity
endorsement of a product does not significantly increase the persuasive communication of the advert.
This often means that the celebrity is remembered but not the product so therefore it does not
Attitude Change:
persuade people to buy the product for example. This suggests the assumptions of the HY Model are
cast into doubt because the attractive sources are not necessarily the most influential as the model
 Experts are more effective because they are more credible than nonsuggests. One further example is Bob Geldoff who is arguably not attractive yet he has been extremely
persuasive in raising millions of pounds for LIVE AID and BAND AID.
 Popular and attractive sources are more effective than unpopular
2) fear appeals do work
and unattractive sources
 Petty and Cacioppo (1986) found that attractive communicators are One strength of the HY Model is that it is supported by ‘real-life’ fear campaigns. For example, in 2008,
the Australian Government launched phase 4 of a campaign to warn young people about the dangers
more persuasive than less attractive communicators. For example
of crystal meth or ‘ice’ known as “Don’t let ICE destroy you”. This campaign used a moderate level of
celebrities such as Cheryl Cole and George Clooney appear in
fear through explicit images, scenes and consequences (family abuse, skin abnormalities and criminal
advertisements in order to persuade audience to buy a brand of
behaviour). Furthermore, it also emphasises choice and opportunities for positive attitude formation
make up or coffee.
and change. 78% of 13-24 year olds felt that an earlier phase of the campaign (covering marijuana and
 Messages are more effective if we think they are not intended to
ecstasy) had changed how they felt about drugs. This suggests that fear appeals can be persuasive if
persuade us.
 A message can be more effective if it creates moderate levels of fear. they do not petrify the audience with fear and if the audience is informed how to avoid the dangers,
which supports the assumptions of the model. Furthermore, it can be suggested that this model may
 McGuire (1968) suggests that low levels of fear do little to motivate
help to improve people’s lives in this sense.
the audience, whereas high levels cause anxiety which interferes
3) Gender bias in persuasion research
with the ability to process the information.
One issue with the HY Model is that the research upon which it is based is potentially gender biased. It
 Cardwell (2008) fear appeals work best when accompanied with a
could be argued to be Beta Biased because research suggests that women are more susceptible to
way of coping with the danger. For example, sexual health
persuasive communications than men, therefore the model minimising the differences between males
campaigns highlight the risk of STIs but also offer a way of avoiding
and females in their ability to be persuaded. For example, Eagly et al (1987) explained this in terms of
the dangers by wearing a condom.
socialisation differences – women are socialised to conform and therefore are open to social influence.
 Hovland et al (1949) found 1 sided messages (just presenting one
Furthermore, Sinstrick & McDavid (1971) claimed that studies find women more persuasive because in
side of an argument) produce greater attitude change in low
most cases the topic used are one’s in which men were more familiar. Women would not be so
educational achievers and 2 sided messages (presenting both sides
susceptible to persuasive communication if the topic was one in which they were more familiar (and
of an argument) produce greater change in high educational
men were not). Karabenick (1983) provided evidence to support this claim, finding that influence
achievers. This suggests people who make programmes and adverts
varied with item content: males were influenced more with feminine content and females more with
should consider the intelligence of the target audience.
masculine content. This casts doubt on the research used to support the HY Model and as a
 Low and high intelligence audiences are less easily persuaded than
consequence the credibility of the model itself in persuasion.
those with moderate intelligence.
4) Methodological problems with the Hovland-Yale model
 With intelligent audiences presenting both sides of an argument is
Another issue with the H-Y Model is the research used to support the theory is low in population
more effective.
validity. For example, much of the early research carried out by Hovland et al, to develop this model
Younger people are more susceptible to persuasive messages
used students and army personnel for Pp. This means that it can not be generalised to the wider
than adults.
population as it was conducted on army personnel (the majority of which may have been low in
Martin (1997) found whereas older children had a good
intelligence and students (the majority of which would have been high intelliegence). This is an issue
understanding of the persuasive intent of advertising, younger
because it does not give a true representation of the wider society (i.e. people of average intelligence).
children didn’t.
Furthermore, army personnel would have been trained to follow orders. This may make them more
People with lower self-esteem are easier to persuade than
suceptable to displaying demand characteristics (and thus being more persuaded by one-sided
those with higher self-esteem. (Janis, 1954)
messages – as the model states). As a result, this weaknes the Hovland Ylae model as an explanation
for media persuasion because the research conducted to create the model
2. Elaboration Likelihood Model
Petty and Cacioppo (1981) suggested 2 different routes to persuasion depending on
whether the audience is likely to focus on the message itself or on other factors such
as how attractive or credible the source appears to be.
1st route: Central Route
2nd route: Peripheral Route
 If the audience is likely to focus
 If the audience focuses more on
on the arguments, then a central
the context of the message
route is appropriate.
rather than the message itself,
then a peripheral route is more
 Cacioppo and Petty (1982)
likely to be effective.
suggest that some people enjoy
analysing arguments (high need
 When processing by this route,
for cognition) and are more
individuals are more influenced
likely to focus on the quality of
by contextual cues, such as
the arguments than their
celebrity endorsement.
 Fiske and Taylor (1984) claimed
most human beings are
cognitive misers therefore rely
on simple and time effective
strategies when evaluating
information and making
Commentary/evaluation of the ELM
1) online shopping: lessons learned
One strength of Lin et al’s (2011) findings is that it gives us a better understanding of the
effect of online reviews.
For example the peripheral route perspective demonstrates the importance of generating as
many reviews as possible for a low need for cognition audience.
This can help marketing executives and internet marketers design appropriate promotional
materials and review formats in order to influence online shoppers effectively.
Therefore this knowledge of the demographic profile of a target audience and their need for
cognition strengthens the support given for the ELM by giving it real life applicability.
2) peripheral route influence may only be temporary
A weakness of Petty and Cacioppo’s (1981) findings is that the peripheral route may only
have temporary influences.
For example, Earvin Johnson, Jr. announced he was HIV positive which saw an increase in the
number of students willing to help an AIDS victim. 4 ½ months after the announcement,
helping was back to the preannouncement levels.
This suggests that though the peripheral route can have considerable influence. However,
there is a strong likelihood any change produced is temporary.
Therefore this weakens the credibility of the ELM and other factors must be considered in
order to make an attitude change longer lasting e.g. combine the central route of persuasion
with the peripheral route.
3) Why do people sometimes take the peripheral route?
A strength of the ELM is that there are explanations as to why people sometimes take the
peripheral route.
For example, Fiske and Taylor (1984) claim most people are essentially cognitive misers in
which they frequently rely on simple and time effective strategies when evaluating
information and decision making. If the content of the message is not personally important,
then individuals are more influenced by contextual cues such as celebrities. However, when
the content is more important, they are more likely to process the message more carefully.
For example, we may be more influence by Gary Lineker endorsing crisps, but not messages
of loans. Therefore this evidence strengthens the assumptions of ELM and its credibility.
4) The cognitive approach
The ELM is based upon the assumptions of the cognitive approach.
This is because the Elm argues that there are 2 routes to persuasion and focuses on internal
By having more than one route it is perhaps more representative of what actually happens
when we are persuaded. However, it must be stated that internal processing are not directly
measurable and therefore not easily operationalised.
Therefore this weakens the internal validity of the model because internal processes cannot
be directly measured. Consequently, the credibility of the ELM is reduced overall.