I am often frustrated when clear, logical ideas with plenty of evidence are rejected out-of-hand. Why do people fail to properly understand and process so much of the information available to them?
I recently read a brief description of a model (called the elaboration likelihood model) explaining how people process and evaluate new information. Basically the model says that people use a combination of two basic routes to understanding and evaluating an argument:
- The central route – the thinking route. When processing information centrally people think carefully about the message and evaluate the arguments and implications. This is the way I wish everyone would process my ideas.
- The peripheral route – using heuristics. Rather than carefully assessing all the information, people will often use simple cues and rules-of-thumb (heuristics) to evaluate arguments. Things like the communicator’s physical appeal and charm become important. Does the information look professional or do we regard the communicator as an expert?
|Central Route||Peripheral Route|
In most cases we would use a combination of the two approaches to evaluate new information. I got to wondering why people so often lean heavily to the peripheral route. I reckon the reason is that the central route is ‘expensive’ in it’s requirements:
- Time – Is there enough time to properly evaluate the information.
- Information – Is there enough information available.
- Ability – Does the recipient have the ability and knowledge to evaluate the message. Background knowledge might be missing.
- Motivation – This is a biggy. Does the recipient want to invest the time and effort needed to process and evaluate the message centrally?
Because of these requirements/costs people seldom use the central route properly. It would be completely impossible to fully process all of the information that we get bombarded with on a daily basis, so we ‘cheat’ and use the peripheral route.
That makes sense and it’s something that I need to take into account when trying to get ideas across. I need to remember that:
- People are definitely going to, at least partially, judge my ideas on their presentation. Presentation is rightfully very important – I need to stop resenting that fact.
- I also need to tailor my communications according to the 4 factors in order to make the central route more likely. Keep things short, easy to understand, and interesting. Motivation is what I find the toughest – almost nobody cares (or wants to know) what Alistair Pott thinks!
I suppose if you read this far I must have gotten things right. Although, I’d bet that the motivation was handled by the fact that you know me!