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Abstract

In this study, we examine consumers’ cultural background as an antecedent of online review characteristics. We theoretically propose and empirically examine the effect of cultural background (specifically individualism (versus collectivism)) on consumers’ tendency to conform to prior opinion and review texts’ emotionality. We also examine how conformity and emotionality relate to review helpfulness. We test our hypotheses using a unique dataset that combines online restaurant reviews from TripAdvisor with measures of individualism/collectivism values. We found that consumers from a collectivist culture were less likely to deviate from the average prior rating and to express emotion in their reviews. Moreover, individuals perceived those reviews that exhibited high conformity and intense emotions to be less helpful. We also present several important implications for managing online review platforms in light of these findings, which reflect the previously unidentified drivers of systematic differences in the characteristics of online reviews.

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