|Ph.D Student||Shoham Meyrav|
|Subject||Exploring the Impact of Irrelevant Information in Online|
|Department||Department of Industrial Engineering and Management||Supervisors||Professor Ido Erev|
|Dr. Sarit Moldovan|
|Dr. Yael Steinhart|
|Full Thesis text|
Past research has shown that positive and helpful product reviews can improve evaluations and increase sales, and that even negative reviews can raise awareness regarding unfamiliar products. Can seemingly irrelevant and unhelpful reviews also have a positive impact on consumers' judgments? Such reviews are usually not seen as desirable by either sellers or buyers, and have received little attention from researchers. This research demonstrates that irrelevant reviews can improve evaluations - but only if they are labeled as negative (e.g., if the reviewer gave the product one star).
Since many products have positive reviews, it can be difficult to decide which one is the best choice. We suggest that consumers first look for well-reviewed products, but then turn to the few negative reviews to make sure that they have a complete picture about the product's benefits and drawbacks. If a review appears to be negative (one star) but its content is seen as irrelevant, consumers can be confident that they have a more complete picture about the product, and that it really is a good one. As a result, they will evaluate the product more positively and be more likely to choose it.
Therefore, we hypothesized that when consumers read about a product that has several positive reviews, seeing an additional review that is irrelevant and labeled as negative will improve evaluations and choice likelihood. The addition of this irrelevant negative review will improve evaluations compared to when there are only positive reviews (because then consumers will feel that they have a less complete picture about the product) or when there is a relevant negative review (because this points to actual drawbacks that the product has).
Results from a series of studies showed that exposure to a negatively valenced irrelevant review leads to improved evaluations, higher purchase intentions and willingness to pay, increased choice likelihood, and greater satisfaction. Participants who were exposed to an irrelevant one-star review alongside positive reviews evaluated products more positively than (1) those who saw an irrelevant five-star review, (2) those who saw only relevant positive reviews, and (3) those who saw a relevant one-star review. Participants feel more confident that they have a complete picture about the product after seeing an irrelevant negative review, leading to more positive evaluations. This effect occurs when the source of information is strangers, but not friends: it is easier to assess the value and completeness of information provided by friends, so additional cues are not required.
This research contributes to the literatures on online word of mouth and reviews, irrelevant information, and meta-cognitive processes in consumer behavior. From a practical standpoint, this suggests that rather than being concerned about irrelevant negative reviews, sellers should welcome and perhaps even encourage a small number of such reviews. While irrelevant negative reviews cannot replace positive reviews, they can assist consumers in making decisions with greater confidence, making them quite relevant for researchers and practitioners alike.