What Makes A Trustworthy Review?

Online reviews are undoubtedly influential, with various studies showing that they sway our purchases more than anything else we encounter online.  What is it that makes a review trustworthy though?  That was the question posed by a recent study by Indiana University.

Whilst we might expect that the content of the review, and indeed the reputation of the person making the review, are hugely important, so to is the way the review is written, and especially the number of spelling mistakes and typos.

Well written reviews

The researchers presented a number of reviews to 300 or so participants, with their reactions tracked by the team.  The reviews were mixed so that some contained typos, some spelling mistakes, and some robust use of English.

It appeared that typos and spelling mistakes were treated very differently by readers.  For instance, typos were viewed as an error of carelessness, which made the reader think less of the reviewer, whereas spelling mistakes were an error of knowledge, which they appeared to overlook.

There was also an interesting analysis of the readers themselves.  Each completed a survey to gauge their level of trust in others, before then dissecting the reviews placed before them.  It emerged that those with low levels of trust in others were rarely influenced by the reviews, even if they contained spelling or typographical errors.

“For high-trusters, typographical errors signaled a general lack of conscientiousness or carelessness that harmed reviewer credibility and reduced involvement with the content of the review,” the authors say.

Suffice to say, as influential as reviews are, they can also have a nefarious impact by spreading misinformation.  This is especially so when the reviewer is a stranger and you lack any contextual understanding of them or their circumstances.  The researchers hope that their findings will help us to regulate our own behaviors however, and allow us to better use reviews for good ends.

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