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Persuasion: The Elaboration Likelihood Model

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Since I arrived to Austin, I have learned that american television commercials are not that different from the ones we have back home in Spain. I watched some of the car commercials from BMW and Mercedes Benz aired during TV show breaks. The BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe one featured spectacular motion graphics of fire and nature while playing futuristic music, time-lapses of an eclipse, shocked standing people and the roar of a high speed car across the desert roads. The second one (“Evening Star”) from Mercedes -more classic- showed some clips of the car being driver through an almost empty city at the sunset, with a confident and distinguished man at the wheel. The scenes were from different positions, mainly showing the image of the car from various angles and underlining the car lights with a closer camera.

When I saw the commercials, I liked more the first one because it was not the standard car ad. Instead, they showed more the other elements that the car model. And the visual effects were certainly brilliant and captured my attention.  The second one -more classic- was not that attractive for me. Instead, I felt it was a little long and did not offer anything. As an Advertising student, I recognized it was a ‘slice-of-life’ ad and it seemed boring for me, as I realized that the advertisement wanted me to believe that if I bought this car I would be like that man, an ‘evening star’ in the city. I felt attracted by the idea of power transmitted in both ads, but the first also showed precision and some values that made it more appealing for me. Anyway, I assume that it may be because I am not part of their target, older (and wealthier) people. If I had to buy a car I would compare several models and contrast their differences in order to choose the best option for me. An ad that shows me why I should choose this model and compares its features with its competitors would be more effective for me. And that leads me to one question that will be discussed in the following paragraph.

The elaboration likelihood model recognizes two routes for persuasion: a central one, that would require relevant and deep thinking or elaboration, and a peripheral one in which elaboration is low. Although this is not an extreme case of the peripheral route, I believe that those commercials are closer to the latter for five reasons. To start with, there is almost no issue-relevant thinking expected from the viewer than feel the commercial as it was an entertainment piece. Also it does rely in the attractiveness of the source, with special effects and a catchy video, and builds the ad taking for granted that the person being persuaded believes in the expertise of the source: as a luxury product, he/she must trust in the brand to believe that the final product is like that and that it is the best choice, better than the competitors. It uses the images and sounds of the video in order to get viewer emotion rather than making him think if the product really has a value proposition that deserves the additional expenses. On the other hand, there is no argument apart from the power of the car and the feeling it transmits to the driver. Again, emotions rather than reasons. Is the peripheral route commonly used for luxury products? Their ads often rely in the trust the brand possesses and emotions. We could say it is, when the individual is not going to elaborate so much or contrast the product with others, and money is not a problem.

Persuasion: The cognitive dissonance theory

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During the last months, I faced several decisions that would determine how this year was going to be like. I had lived in my own last summer, when I did an internship in Madrid, but this was completely different: I would live an entire semester abroad, in the University of Texas at Austin. Therefore, choosing an adequate dorm or apartment was important and I tried to compare some of them. After realizing that my choice was actually not as good as advertised, I unconsciously started trying to reduce that dissonance. But the behavior that will be described leads to the question: how can laziness affect our behavior and help reduce dissonances?

I arrived to Austin on January 5th. An almost empty room, which barely had some furniture and with an added constant noise of the air conditioning system. By that time it was christmas holiday and there was no people there; after some days and hearing some friends’ experiences in West Campus I decided to change my room and try in other place. This was a radical reaction: I was altering my behavior because there was a huge dissonance and I did not feel alright with my choice. But after looking some offers and thinking about the tedious process that I was starting, suddenly my room started to look better.After thinking deeply about the situation, I decided to give it a try and stay some more days, or at least a whole week, in my room so I could get used to it and see if it improved.

So, instead of altering my behavior leaving my room I did other things to change my way of seeing them, in order to reduce the dissonance. Some of my actions included communicating with some friends, to see that their choices also had their own disadvantages; and spread apart the alternatives by giving more importance to some features of the dorm that I had chosen (the cafeteria buffet food was actually good and I had an unlimited plan, so this option was supposed to be better than the other one). After waiting one week, the dorm started to be filled of people and everything seemed more normal. But did laziness intervened in the process? Could bureaucracy have influenced the decision of not changing my room? It seems that the impact must be big to make you change your decision and alter your behavior. If there are other options to convince yourself that your choice was a good one, many people try to persuade themselves rather than acting in other way or assuming that they made a mistake. Or maybe it is harder to complain when you have a ten-person queue in front of you, and you recur to other options to reduce your dissonance than changing your behaviour.