Positive or Negative Reviews? Consumers’ Selective Exposure in Seeking and Evaluating Online Reviews
How and why positive and negative reviews influence product sales differently has critical implications for both research and businesses. Although earlier online word-of-mouth research empirically documented negative reviews to influence product sales to a greater extent than positive reviews (i.e., a negativity bias), later research revealed positive reviews to be generally more helpful (i.e., a positivity bias). We propose an answer to this puzzle may be that negative reviews get more exposure than positive reviews. As consumers are often overwhelmed by an exploding number of online reviews, they need to be selective when searching for reviews. This research investigates consumers’ preference for positive vs. negative reviews during both the information-seeking and information-evaluation stages of their decision-making process. Drawing on the motivated reasoning literature, we propose that consumers exhibit a negativity bias when they search for reviews to read, but they manifest a confirmation bias when they evaluate the helpfulness of reviews. We conducted three experiments and found consistent support for these hypotheses. Our findings expand the current understanding of consumers’ processing of online reviews to the information-seeking stage, reveal differential biases in different stages, demonstrate a possible explanation for the negativity bias in product sales, and provide important practical implications.
Lei, Zhanfei; Yin, Dezhi; and Zhang, Han, "Positive or Negative Reviews? Consumers’ Selective Exposure in Seeking and Evaluating Online Reviews" (2023). JAIS Preprints (Forthcoming). 95.
Available at: https://aisel.aisnet.org/jais_preprints/95