Management Information Systems Quarterly


Drawing on construal level theory, prior literature has found a positivity bias in online ratings when consumers evaluate an experience from a psychological distance, whether spatial or temporal. Self-distancing theory posits that psychological distance enables individuals to reflect on psychologically distant negative experiences more genuinely, in a less biased way. This raises the question of whether the positivity bias in ratings due to psychological distance persists for negative experiences. To address this question, we collected data from a large review platform that enables the identification of reviewers’ spatial and temporal distance. The negativity of an experience was operationalized via review text sentiment. We introduced spatial and temporal distance as moderators between sentiment negativity and ratings and found a negative moderation by spatial distance and a positive moderation by temporal distance. Our findings indicate that the relationship between sentiment negativity and rating grows stronger under spatial distance and gets weaker under temporal distance. Text mining confirmed self-distancing as the driver behind the spatial moderation and construal levels as the driver behind the temporal moderation. We attribute the asymmetric moderations to differences in the tangibility of spatial distance (more tangible) and temporal distance (less tangible). These results improve our understanding of reviewing behavior and can help platforms de-bias ratings.