The Quickest Way to Influce Attitude & Behavior Change with Storytelling
The Elaboration Likelihood Model – Summary
In 1986, Petty & Cacioppo had an entire room whose walls were covered over with blackboard paint. From end to end was clusters of studies on behavior and persuasion. It was during their graduate studies and this room of research blackboards that they discovered an underlying theme. The theme evolved into the Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM). This model paved the way for researchers to better understand and apply persuasion techniques. Understanding a hand full of terms set’s the stage for applying the ELM to storytelling.
Elaboration is thinking about an issue or topic at hand. People can systematically think about an issue or topic to a great extent or give it little to no thought. This continuum of elaboration moves between extremely high issue involvement to little issue involvement. There are two factors that play a role in a determining how much a person is involved or elaborating on the issue. First is motivation or the desire to think over an issue and the second is the ability or capacity to think over an issue. According to the ELM, persuasion or influence can take place anywhere on the continuum.
The effectiveness of influence along the continuum is depended on the route by which the message is processed. There are two routes, central and peripheral. Central route is one where there is high involvement or elaboration. The peripheral route is where the message is processed through cues and things not specific to the arguments, also known as heuristics.
When involvement is high, the likelihood of central processing is high and requires soundness of arguments for influence to take place. On the other hand, if elaboration is low the likelihood of the messages being processed along the peripheral route increases. In this case, influence is best achieved through heuristics, such as the credentials, attractiveness, and credibility of the person delivering the message. To summarize, experts will care less about the title of the person delivering the message and more about the soundness of the arguments. On the other hand, people who know little on the topic will rely on the titles and body language of the messengers more than on the content in the message.
The Extended ELM
Applying the ELM to narrative persuasion or influence proved difficult in explaining the mixed results. Researcher Micheal Slater (2002) found that the term, issue involvement, was better understood as engagement or absorption or identification with characters. In narrative or storytelling, the term Transportation is when a viewer becomes so absorbed in a stories character that they lose track of their surroundings. To simplify things, Transportation encompasses engagement, absorption, and identification with characters.
Narratives are unique in that they connect people with people, including the inanimate objects that are infused with human-like characteristics. Slate (2002) notes that “Human beings are social information processors before they are processors of facts, figures, and logical arguments.” Additional research found that a person who is transported into a story, their counterarguing or BS radar, is dimmed or bypassed and influence even the most staunched of people. A remarkable story is one of, if not the most powerful tools of influence.
Application of the Extended ELM to Story Telling
The Quickest Way to Achieve Attitude and Behavior Change
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