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Have you ever purchased a product simply because your favorite celebrity endorsed it? If so, you were influenced by the peripheral route to persuasion. Learn more about this phenomenon and test your knowledge with a quiz.

Definition and Example

Liam is a 7-year-old who loves to watch cartoons and play video games. While out grocery shopping with his mother, Liam sees a poster advertising a new vegetable drink for kids.The poster says that the drink will improve your immune system and help you achieve optimal health. Liam does not quite understand what optimum health or your immune system is, so he pays the advertisement very little attention.

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However, once Liam walks further down the aisle and sees another poster of his favorite cartoon character drinking the vegetable drink, he then rushes to his mother and asks her to purchase the drink for him, to which she agrees.Liam was persuaded to purchase the drink by the peripheral route to persuasion, which occurs when a person is persuaded to act based on something other than the arguments or content of a message.

Two Methods of Persuasion

The peripheral route to persuasion was first discussed by Richard Petty and John Cacioppo. According to Petty and Cacioppo, there are two methods by which people can be persuaded: peripherally or centrally. The peripheral route relies on something other than information central to the merits of the product or idea being considered to influence someone’s attitude or behavior. It is especially effective in instances where the person receiving the message is not very interested in the topic or when they do not have the ability to comprehend the central message.

In the example above, the message delivered by the first advertisement was that the vegetable juice would improve health and the immune system. Being a 7-year-old, Liam was not very interested in improving his health, nor did he possess much knowledge about the immune system or why improving it may be important. What Liam was interested in was cartoons, and showing him a poster of his favorite character drinking the vegetable juice provided him with the incentive he needed to ask his mother to purchase the drink.The second method of persuasion is called central route to persuasion.

It occurs when an individual is persuaded to act based on the arguments pertaining to the merits of the product or idea being put forth.Let’s say that Liam’s mother read the poster too and was interested in improving her son’s health and boosting his immune system. If so, she would have been persuaded to buy the vegetable drink for Liam by the central route to persuasion.

Let’s look at another example of the peripheral route to persuasion. Suppose that you are shopping for clothes at the mall and someone stops you to try to convince you to upgrade your cell phone. You have no interested in upgrading, until you see a photo of your favorite celebrity with the latest model. You then decide that an upgrade is a good idea and you walk out of the mall with a new clothes and a new cell phone. The cellphone company successfully got you to upgrade your phone not by convincing you of how great it was, but by enticing you with a popular celebrity.

Lesson Summary

The peripheral and central routes to persuasion are two methods of modifying someone’s attitudes, according to Richard Petty and John Cacioppo. The peripheral route to persuasion occurs when a person is persuaded by something other than the argument that’s central to the merits of the product or idea being put forth, while the central route to persuasion occurs when a person is persuaded by the actual argument about the merits of the product or idea.

The peripheral route to persuasion is most effective when a person has little understanding or interest in the central message.

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