Elaboration Likelihood Model Critique

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The Elaboration Likelihood Model has been hailed by some as “unquestionably the most influential recent theoretical development in persuasion research” (O’Keefe, 2002). Even if this is the case, it is by no means a perfect theory. One of the most commonly cited criticisms of the elaboration likelihood model is the vacuous nature of the “argument strength” component. Although this criticism is useful for pointing out an area of the model that can be fine-tuned, any perceived shortcomings due to the argument strength concept can be mitigated through a creative application of other areas of the model.

One of the largest criticisms of the elaboration likelihood model (hereafter ELM) pertains to the nature of “argument strength”. According to O’Keefe, if the central route of persuasion is to be used, the receiver’s assessment of positive valence toward his or her thoughts is the most critical aspect controlling whether or not persuasion occurs. Valence is in turn controlled by two factors; proattitudinal or counterattitudinal tendency toward the persuasive message, and argument strength. Proattitudinal versus counterattitudinal tendency toward a position states that positive valence is more likely if the position being presented is already believed to some extent by the receiver. The argument strength component of valence states that strong arguments should be used in a persuasive interaction. A strong argument, according to Petty and Cacioppo, is defined as “one containing arguments such that when subjects are instructed to think about the message, the thoughts that they generate are predominantly favorable” (O’Keefe, 2002). This advice gives the persuader no more to work with than the suggestion to use arguments that work. To complain about the nature of argument strength in the ELM is to fail to see the richness of this theory and to lack creativity on how to apply it. I believe that the ELM offers enough information that can be applied to argument...
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