Elaboration Likelihood Model Critique
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”.
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The need for cognition, according to Petty and Cacioppo, is “the tendency for an individual to engage in and enjoy thinking” (O’Keefe, 2002). A strong argument for the audience with a high need for cognition will invite them to engage in critical thinking about select positive qualities of the persuasive message. Returning to the car sale example, one might encourage a potential buyer with high need for cognition to conceive of ways in which the car in question would fit their needs. Alternatively, one may encourage the customer to conceptualize the abstract benefits of purchase, such as the advantage of less dependence on foreign oil due to high gas mileage, the need for safety features to protect family, and so on. By constructing arguments that encourage the customer to engage in critical thinking, the arguments become strengthened due to their added bonus of satisfying the customer’s need for cognition. The mood of the receiver can also be taken into account when tailoring a strong argument. It has been shown that when elaboration is high, “the receiver’s mood may incline the receiver to have mood-congruent thoughts” (O’Keefe, 2002). In other words, if the receiver is in a positive mood, positive thoughts are likely, and if the receiver is in a negative mood, negative thoughts are likely. Depending on the mood of the receiver, a persuader can decide to positively argue for their message, or negatively argue against competing messages. To explain this in