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born “twisted,” he explained the unexplainable: why they killed Bobby Franks. At the
same time, he made Leopold and Loeb seem less responsible. Thus, Darrow presented
the judge with credible explanations on which he could expand to reach a verdict.
Central route processors elaborate on the message by ¬lling in the gaps with their
own knowledge and beliefs. Messages processed this way are more ¬rmly tied to other
attitudes and are therefore more resistant to change. Attitude change that results from
central route processing is stable, long-lasting, and dif¬cult to reverse.

Peripheral Route Processing
What if the listener is not motivated, is not able to understand the message, or simply does
not like to deal with new or complex information? In these incidences, the listener takes
peripheral route another route to persuasion, a peripheral route. In peripheral route processing, listeners
processing In the ELM, rely on something other than the message to make their decisions; they are persuaded by
information may be processed cues peripheral or marginal to the message. A juror may be favorably in¬‚uenced by the
using cues peripheral or
appearance of the defendant, for example. Or perhaps he or she remembers when his or
marginal to the content
her uncle was in a similar predicament and thinks, “He wasnʼt guilty either.”
Emotional cues are very effective in persuading peripheral route processors (Petty
& Cacioppo, 1986). Recall the experiment on the effects of fear appeals in campus
crime newscasts: A strong emotional appeal offering a reassuring solution was accepted
regardless of whether the argument itself was strong or weak. Participants were not
processing centrally; they paid no attention to the quality of the argument. They simply
wanted reassurance, and the existence of a possible solution acted as a peripheral cue,
convincing them that the argument must be valid. High or moderate fear makes us accept
whatever reassuring solution is presented to us.
Chapter 6 Persuasion and Attitude Change 201

Familiar phrases or clich©s included in persuasive messages can serve as peripheral
cues to persuasion (Howard, 1997). Howard compared familiar (donʼt put all of your
eggs in one basket) and literal (donʼt risk everything on a single venture) phrases for their
ability to persuade via the peripheral route. Howard found that familiar phrases produced
more persuasion under conditions of low attitude involvement (peripheral route) than
under high involvement (central route). The familiar phrases were also more effective
than the literal phrases when the individual was distracted from the message and when
the target of the persuasive communication was low in the need for cognition.
Peripheral route processing often leads to attitude change, but because the listener
has not elaborated on the message, the change is not very stable and is vulnerable to
counter-pressures (Kassin, Reddy, & Tulloch, 1990). A juror who processes centrally
will be ¬rm in his or her conclusions about the evidence, but a peripheral route juror
will be an easy target for the next persuader in the courtroom (ForsterLee, Horowitz,
& Bourgeois, 1993).
Although we have distinguished between the central and peripheral routes, message
processing is not an either/or proposition. In fact, you may process some parts of a message
centrally, others peripherally. For example, a juror may be interested in and understand
the scienti¬c evidence presented at trial and process that information centrally. However,
when an economist takes the stand, the juror may be bored or may think that people in
bow ties are untrustworthy, and then process that testimony peripherally.

The Effect of Mood on Processing
Many speakers try to put their audience in a good mood before making their case. They
tell a joke or an amusing story, or they say something designed to make listeners feel
positive. Is this a good strategy? Does it make an argument more persuasive? It depends.
When people are in a good mood, they tend to be distracted. Good moods bring out many
related pleasant feelings and memories. Everything seems rosy. People in good moods
cannot concentrate very well on messages; they cannot process information centrally. In
one study on the in¬‚uence of mood, people were put in either a good or a neutral mood
and were given either an unlimited or very limited amount of time to listen to a message
(Mackie & Worth, 1989). The strength of the persuasive messages also varied: One message
contained strong arguments; the other, only weak arguments. The researchers reasoned
that for the participants in good moods, strong and weak arguments would be equally
effective. As shown in Figure 6.6, this was found to be the case, but only when there was
a limited amount of time to study the messages. People in good moods did not distinguish
between strong and weak arguments because they were not processing centrally.
Good feelings do not, however, always prevent central processing. If people in good
moods are motivated to carefully evaluate and elaborate on a message, and if they have
enough time, they will process centrally. A good mood will not have a direct effect on their
attitudes, but it may make them think more positive thoughts about the message, if it is a
strong one and they have time to consider it (Petty, Schumann, Richman, & Strathman,
1993). The good thoughts then lead to positive attitude change. For those using peripheral
route processing, good moods donʼt lead to more positive thoughts and then to positive
attitude change. These people arenʼt thinking about the message at all and are not elabo-
rating on it. Instead, for them, good mood leads directly to attitude change.
Mood can act as a resource, helping us fend off the effects of negative information,
increasing the likelihood that personally relevant negative information will be
processed centrally (Raghunathan & Trope, 2002). According to the mood-as-a-
resource hypothesis, a good mood acts as a buffer against the emotional effects of
Social Psychology

Figure 6.6 The effect Positive Mood Neutral Mood
of mood and processing Limited Unlimited Limited Unlimited
time on the impact of a
persuasive message. When 2 2
people are in a good mood 1.8 1.8
and have limited time to
1.6 1.6
process the message, there
1.4 1.4
is no effect of argument


1.2 1.2
strength. Given unlimited
time, participants are more 1 1
persuaded by the strong 0.8 0.8
argument. In a neutral 0.6 0.6
mood, participants are 0.4 0.4
more persuaded by strong 0.2 0.2
arguments than weak
0 0
arguments, regardless of
Strong Weak Strong Weak
time limitation.
Strength of Message Strength of Message
Adapted from Mackie and Worth (1989).

negative information, allowing us to focus on what we can learn from the information
(Raghunathan & Trope, 2002). Raghunathan and Trope conducted a series of experiments
demonstrating this effect. In one experiment, for example, participants (high- or low-
caffeine consumers) were induced into either a good or bad mood. They were then
exposed to personally relevant negative information about caffeine consumption. The
results showed that participants who consumed larger amounts of caffeine recalled
more of the negative information about caffeine when in a good mood than when in
a bad mood (there was no such effect for participants who consumed low amounts of
caffeine). In a second experiment, the researchers found that the negative information
about caffeine led to more persuasion among high-caffeine consumers when they were
in a good mood.
Figure 6.7 shows how good mood affects central and peripheral processors
differently. Thus, the relationship between potentially biasing factors in persuasion, such
as mood or likability of the communicator, is a complex one. Variables that bias the
persuasion process still operate when an individual is motivated to process a message
centrally (Petty, Wegener, & White, 1998). Petty and Wegener (1993) proposed the
¬‚exible correction model ¬‚exible correction model (FCM) to help us understand how biasing variables in¬‚uence
(FCM) A model stating that the persuasion process. According to the FCM, individuals using central route processing
individuals using central route (highly motivated) are in¬‚uenced by biasing variables because they are not aware of
processing are in¬‚uenced by
the potential impact of the biasing variable (e.g., mood) during a persuasion situation
biasing variables, because they
(Petty et al., 1998). Furthermore, correction for biasing conditions, according to the
are not aware of the potential
FCM, should take place under the following impact of the biasing conditions (p. 95):
biasing conditions.

1. When an individual is motivated to search for biasing variables.
2. When an individual ¬nds sources of potential bias after a search.
3. When an individual generates ideas or theories about the nature of the bias.
4. When an individual is motivated and has the ability to make a correction for
the biasing variable.
Chapter 6 Persuasion and Attitude Change 203

Figure 6.7 The effect
of mood on central or
peripheral route processing.
When using central route
processing, a good mood
leads to the generation of
positive thoughts, which
affects attitudes. When using
peripheral route processing,
a good mood directly
affects attitudes, bypassing
the generation of positive
Adapted from Petty, Schumann, Richman, and
Strathman (1993).

In two experiments, Petty et al. (1998) tested the assumptions made by the FCM.
In their ¬rst experiment, Petty and colleagues varied the likability of the source of a
message (likable and unlikable) along with whether participants received an instruction
to correct for the likability information. Petty and colleagues found that when no cor-
rection instruction was given, the likable source led to attitude change in the direction
of the position advocated in a persuasive message (positive attitude change), whereas
the unlikable source led to attitude change in the opposite direction (negative attitude
change). This is the usual ¬nding when such variables are manipulated. However, when
participants were given an instruction to correct for the likability of the source, the
results were just the opposite. The unlikable source produced positive attitude change,
whereas the likable source produced negative attitude change. Additionally, there was
greater correction for the unlikable source than the likable source.
In their second experiment, Petty and colleagues added a third variable: whether
participants used high- or low-elaboration strategies. When participants used
low-elaboration strategies and no correction instruction was given, the likable source
yielded more persuasion than the unlikable source. However, when a correction
instruction was given, the likable and unlikable sources were equally persuasive. The
opposite occurred under high-elaboration strategies. Here, in the no-correction condition,
the likable and unlikable sources produced the same levels of persuasion, whereas
when the correction instruction was given, the unlikable source produced more attitude
change than the likable source.
The results of both studies suggest that when individuals become aware of a biasing
factor (likability or mood), they will be motivated to correct for the biasing factor under
high- or low-elaboration conditions. Thus, when individuals become aware of such
biasing factors, they may not in¬‚uence persuasion more when peripheral route pro-
cessing is used. Additionally, such factors may not bias the processing of information
relevant to the issue contained in a persuasive message when central route processing is
used (Petty et al., 1998). It appears as though the mechanisms for correction for biasing
factors operate independently from the mechanisms for processing the content of the
message (Petty et al., 1998).
Social Psychology

High Involvement Low Involvement
Strong Weak Strong Weak
Arguments Arguments Arguments Arguments

0.8 0.8

Mean Attitude Score

Mean Attitude Score
Figure 6.8 The effects “0.4 “0.6
of audience involvement,
“0.6 “0.8
expertise of source, and
High Low High Low
strength of arguments.
Expertise of Source Expertise of Source
From Cacioppo and Goldman (1981).

The Effect of Personal Relevance on Processing
Another factor affecting central versus peripheral route processing is personal rel-
evance. If an issue is important to us and affects our well-being, we are more likely
to pay attention to the quality of the message. In one study, college students were told
that the university chancellor wanted to have all seniors pass a comprehensive exami-
nation before they could graduate (Petty, Cacioppo, & Goldman, 1981). Participants
hearing the high-relevance version of this message were told the policy would go into
effect the following year and, consequently, would affect them. Participants hearing
the low-relevance version were informed that the policy wouldnʼt be implemented for
several years and therefore would not affect them.
The researchers also varied the quality of the arguments and the expertise of the
communicator. Half the participants heard persuasive arguments, and the other half
heard weaker arguments. Half were told that the plan was based on a report by a local
high school class (low communicator expertise), and the other half were told the source
was the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education (high expertise).
Results indicated that relevance did in¬‚uence the type of processing participants
used (Figure 6.8). Students who thought the change would affect them were persuaded
by the strong argument and not by the weak one. In other words, they carefully examined
the arguments, using central processing. Students who thought the change wouldnʼt
affect them simply relied on the expertise of the communicator. They were persuaded
when they thought the plan was based on the Carnegie Commission report, regardless
of whether the arguments were strong or weak. Low relevance, in other words, enhances
the in¬‚uence of communicator credibility and increases the likelihood that listeners will
use peripheral processing.
Does high relevance mean that you always will be persuaded by strong and rational
arguments? Not at all. An issue may be highly relevant to you because it involves an
important personal value. In this case, even a very persuasive argument probably wonʼt


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