What You Need to Know About : Elaboration Likelihood theory

John Cacioppo and Richard E. Petty’s elaboration likelihood theory (ELT) deals with the ways in which communicators process persuasive messages. The theory describes two cognitive levels through which communicators process issue- related arguments and explains how these two routes differ. Human beings want to hold correct attitudes and opinions but are not always willing or able to evaluate the merits of the issue-related arguments presented in support of an appeal. The persuasive message recipient evaluates some messages in an elaborate way and deals with others with much less critical thinking, if at all. Relevant to communication theory, ELT acknowledges and tries to explain the two different means by which the recipient evaluates issue-related content. ELT tries to predict when and how the recipient will and will not be persuaded. ‘

Cacioppo and Petty’s use of the term elaboration refers to the extent of critical thinking that an audience member gives to the persuasive message. Elaboration likelihood is the two social scientists’ metaphor for variable; it can change from little to great, depending on the way the message is evaluated. Cacioppo and Petty posit that a receiver of a persuasive message processes the information through one of two routes—central or peripheral—or sometimes both, toward attitude change.

Littlejohn, Stephen W and Karen A.Floss. (2009). Encyclopedia of Communication Theory.USA:SAGE.654

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Edwina Ayu Kustiawan