This is a sample problem with the answer I am stuck on:

Question: According to the elaboration likelihood model, which of the following does NOT predict whether a message will be persuasive?

A. The length of the message
B. The attractiveness of the person delivering the message
C. The truthfulness of the message
D. The trustworthiness of the person delivering the message

Answer: The correct answer is C. According to the elaboration likelihood model, the truthfulness of the message itself is not actually a characteristic used to determine whether a message will be persuasive (choice C is correct). The message characteristics (including length) do predict persuasiveness (choice A is wrong), as do the source characteristics (including the attractiveness and the trustworthiness of the person delivering the message; choices B and D are wrong).

Wouldn't the truthfulness of the message still be a factor, since it is a characteristic of the message itself (via the central route with message characteristics)? I get why the other answers are wrong. I don't get why C is correct.

  • $\begingroup$ This question is more about philosophy than psychology I think. It's because what we are dealing here is whether the belief of the receiver changing or not. "Truthfulness", or "fact", does not constitute to belief. Knowledge, on the other hand, requires truthfulness. For starter, see Justified true belief. $\endgroup$
    – Ooker
    Jun 8, 2020 at 9:07

1 Answer 1


Not my area, but an interesting question.

The Elaboration Likelihood Model appears to divide messages between that which is true and that which is persuasive. If you are intent on determining whether a message is true, it must go the rough the central route which will take protracted effort.

However, very often we are less interested in what is true and more interested in taking cues from others so that we avoid the laboursome effort of intensive thought.

To answer your question, if the message is persuasive, then no about of truth or falsity of which you are unaware will influence you.

I could not see it in the article, however, I imagine that if you were a priori aware that a message is false, you would naturally be more circumspect about allowing a false argument to be persuasive.

Modern advertising seems to revolve around persuasive arguments rather than truthful arguments (I'm not saying they are false, but the investment effort is making the commercial persuasive rather that factual).

The following except from Kitchen (2014, page 2034) clarified the issue for me.

The premise of ELM is that when elaboration likelihood is high, information processing will occur via the central route. Resultant attitude formation, change or endurance is derived from extensive consideration of the message arguments and will be more persistent (Haugtvedt and Petty, 1989) and predictive of an individual’s subsequent behaviour (Petty and Cacioppo, 1983). When elaboration likelihood is low, processing occurs via the peripheral route. The peripheral route to persuasion requires little cognitive effort, instead relying upon peripheral cues such as source credibility and heuristics (Petty and Cacioppo, 1983). As such, attitudes formed via the peripheral route are relatively unaffected by argument quality, are temporary in nature, and are not as predictive of subsequent behaviour as those formed using the central route (Petty and Cacioppo, 1983).

Kitchen, P. J., Kerr, G., Schultz, D. E., McColl, R., & Pals, H. (2014). The elaboration likelihood model: review, critique and research agenda. European Journal of Marketing. https://doi.org/10.1108/EJM-12-2011-0776


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