How controversy leads to commitment: Predecisional distortion in reactions to premarket products through online review systems

Emily Sidnam-Mauch, Leila Bighash

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Research examining online reviews and ratings has generally found higher ratings result in positive perceptions and ultimately more sales, but little is known about how polarized ratings and/or reviews influence consumer behavior and purchasing outcomes. We argue that controversy is an important boundary condition for predicting how aggregated ratings and review valences impact user behavior and product outcomes. Using cognitive dissonance theory, particularly research on predecisional distortion and the blemishing effect, we develop and test three hypotheses that examine whether average-rated products that are a result of consensus elicit different consumer behaviors and product outcomes than average-rated controversial products (i.e., products with polarized ratings). Utilizing four years of real-world rating, commenting, and purchasing behaviors pertaining to over 60 thousand designs and two thousand products from a creative crowdsourcing ecommerce site, we find that negative information mixed with positive feedback can produce net positive results. Products which receive more polarized premarket feedback generate more community discussion, community sales, and follow-through purchases. The findings suggest that, in situations where consumers have a developing preference for an item, encountering comparatively negative information can in fact have a positive impact on commenting and purchasing behaviors—more so than if no opposing information were present.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number106902
JournalComputers in Human Behavior
Volume124
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2021

Keywords

  • Blemishing effect
  • Cognitive dissonance
  • Controversy
  • Online rating systems
  • Predecisional distortion
  • Review valence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Psychology(all)

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