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Persuasion, attitude change, and the elaboration likelihood model

Video transcript

- [Voiceover] Imagine that you are in school, and the school has brought in two speakers to talk about an issue that might cause controversy. Maybe it's about stopping the sale of all soda products on campus. So you have one speaker who is arguing for this policy, and one who is arguing against it. How do you, as the listener, evaluate the messages of these two speakers? There are three main characteristics that seem to have an impact on how we are persuaded for or against a certain message. The first are message characteristics. These are features of the message itself. Was the argument logical? Did it have key points? Did it follow a clear path, or did the speaker jump around a lot? So, message characteristics include how well thought out the actual message is, but it also includes other aspects of the message, like how well written it was. Does the speaker seem to have a good grasp of the rules of grammar? Did they use the appropriate vocabulary? Was the talk a good length, or was it too long or too short? These are all characteristics of the message that is being given. But it turns out that while we're paying attention to the message itself, we are also paying attention to the environment around us. These are referred to as source characteristics. Let's take a moment to think about our two speakers. What is their level of expertise for the topic that they're discussing? Do they seem knowledgeable? Do they seem trustworthy? And what about the information in their talks? Does it come from a medical or psych journal? Or was it collected via the internet or street polls? We can also pay attention to the actual physical environment where the speakers came from, and also the venue that the speaker is currently in. Is this talk taking place on the campus of the school, or in a less formal setting outside of it, maybe a bar? The last set of characteristics that can influence how we receive a message are referred to as target characteristics. These are the characteristics of the listener who is receiving the message. So in our example here, that would be the characteristics that you bring to the table. Are you in a good mood or are you in a bad mood? Do you have high or low self-esteem? Are you awake and alert, or did you stay up all night studying so now you're tired? Target characteristics include everything about the listener, from how intelligent they are to whether or not they've had enough to eat that day. These are all things that can influence how we attend to and receive a message. All of these characteristics, but especially the target characteristics, play an important role in the elaboration likelihood model, which is a model that tries to explain how our attitudes are formed and how they can be changed. So let's use the same example. You're a listener and you're still listening to these two speakers. When the speaker gets up and starts to give a presentation, we don't just want to know what characteristics people pay attention to in their talk, we want to know how do we evaluate the speaker's message? How do we come to be persuaded or not persuaded by what they have to say? According to the elaboration likelihood model, we process information along two possible paths or two possible routes. These are referred to as the central and peripheral routes. According to this model, after a particular route is chosen, the information is then passed through three different stages. The first stage actually has to do with the target characteristics that we were talking about earlier. The main idea here is that before we can even consider information or be persuaded by it, that information is first filtered by our perceptions of it and our perceptions of that situation. Maybe you, personally, think that the topic of discussion is really interesting, or maybe you find that you're really motivated to learn a lot more about it. You think it's really important. In that case the elaboration likelihood model would say that you were moving onto the central route. But maybe, for whatever reason, you actually don't have a lot of interest in the topic, and you also don't have a lot of motivation to pay attention. Maybe you skipped lunch and are really hungry, or maybe you just don't find the topic that important. All of these audience factors, all of these target characteristics, actually filter the information before we're even able to process it. The next stage of the elaboration likelihood model is the processing stage. This is the stage where message characteristics and source characteristics are both taken into account. Following along the central route, when a listener is highly motivated and interested, they tend to pay a lot of attention to the quality of the message being delivered. This leads to deep processing of the material, so a real understanding of it. But what about the people who aren't really interested in the topic and who aren't really motivated by it? They generally focus on the message less and, instead, they pay attention to superficial characteristics or shallow characteristics, things like how attractive the speaker is, or how impressive their PowerPoint looks, even things like how many points the speaker made without really focusing on whether or not those facts were backed up. They'll even focus on things like how many times the speaker got the audience to laugh. Because they're paying attention to all of these superficial characteristics, they tend to not really process the information in a deep way, and so we say that there's shallow processing of information. How do these two paths differ in regards to actual attitude change? High motivation leads to deep processing of the information, which then serves to persuade us towards a message, possibly creating a lasting attitude change. Those along the peripheral route might also change their attitude, but if they do, it'll be temporary. It's likely to fade over time or be successfully attacked in a future argument. So while they might have been persuaded by the speaker at that moment, they probably won't stay persuaded for long.