Trust and online reviews
Sites that use yes/no good/bad thumbs up/thumbs down choices in dining review sites to generate better more trustworthy reviews.
As we have publicised before on FBT, new UK research suggests that perhaps we should treat on-line reviewsd with caution.
Five-star product ratings on restaurant review websites have supposedly reassured online diners that they will not be wasting their money.
The findings of this research, to be published in the Economic Journal, show that, in a world where everyone is competing to get their message across, there is a strong incentive for people to express extreme opinions.
According to Dr Kohei Kawamura, an economics lecturer at Edinburgh University, this incentive means that responses to survey questions that are more elaborate than simple "yes or no" are subject to exaggeration and, as a result, "less credible".
Research showed that in situations where individuals are permitted a more than yes/no good/bad choise they tend to exaggerate their views to compete for influence and attention online. Consequently, as the number of information providers becomes larger, extreme messages prevail and such messages tend to be less credible. The researcher indicated that we should "discount" one-star and five-star reviews because the reviewers are, by nature, inclined to post extreme responses to influence other potential customers.
"Think about the Amazon website, which has star rating from one to five for every product it sells," Dr. Kawamura of Edinburgh University said. "When there are many reviewers, each reviewer has only a small influence on potential customers and their temptation to write extreme reviews becomes large. This means we should discount extreme reviews more heavily when there are a larger number of reviews."
In contrast, simple binary questions – "yes or no", "for or against" – are revealed to be the most effective way of obtaining an accurate reading of public opinion. Such an approach is widely used when canvassing in referendums and opinion polls even though the issues are more complex.
"Since they have no chance to exaggerate, the outcome is completely trustworthy," Kawamura said. "The research demonstrates that simple binary opinion polls can indeed be just as informative as more detailed surveys, when many people are asked."reference