Academic journal article Journal of the Association for Information Systems

Culture, Conformity, and Emotional Suppression in Online Reviews

Academic journal article Journal of the Association for Information Systems

Culture, Conformity, and Emotional Suppression in Online Reviews

Article excerpt

(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)

1 Introduction

Much research in various business disciplines, particularly information systems and marketing, has focused on online reviews. Several studies have noted that the effect of online reviews greatly depends on their characteristics. Specifically, negative reviews tend to be more influential than positive reviews (Chevalier & Mayzlin, 2006), whereas an author who expresses emotion in a review can affect the perceived helpfulness of the review (Yin, Bond, & Zhang, 2014) and consumer conversion (Ludwig et al., 2013). Moreover, the disagreement among prior reviews (e.g., higher variance in star ratings) can have varying effects on product sales and the characteristics of subsequent reviews (Nagle & Riedl, 2014; Sun, 2012). Interestingly, few studies have explored the characteristics of review authors as possible antecedents of review content.

To extend prior literature on the antecedents of online reviews (Goes, Lin, & Yeung, 2014; Huang, Burtch, Hong, & Polman, 2016), we focus on the potential role of the cultural background of reviewers (particularly individualism vs. collectivism values)1. In the process, we answer the recent calls for research on the cross-cultural differences in the production of electronic word of mouth (eWOM) (King, Racherla, & Bush, 2014). Anecdotal and scientific evidence jointly suggest that cultural differences have significant potential to explain the variations in review characteristics. By evaluating the Amazon marketplaces in the United Kingdom (UK), Japan, Germany, and the United States (US), Danescu-Niculescu-Mizil, Kossinets, Kleinberg, and Lee (2009) observed "noticeable differences between reviews" in terms of their average helpfulness and rating variance. Other studies that have examined the cross-cultural differences in the production and consumption of online reviews have also reported similar results (Chung & Darke 2006; Fang, Zhang, Bao, and Zhu, 2013; Koh, Hu, & Clemons, 2010). For instance, consumers from collectivist cultures are less likely to write reviews with low valence (i.e., one-star ratings) (Fang et al., 2013). Underreporting biases, which refer to an author's tendency to write reviews following extreme experiences, are more prevalent among consumers from individualist cultures (Koh et al., 2010). Consumers from individualist cultures are more likely to write reviews for products or services that enable self-expression (Chung & Darke, 2006). However, many questions remain despite these contributions to our understanding of the role of culture in the review process. According to King et al. (2014, p.175), "Understanding these differences and being able to adapt the review process to meet these needs are critical to retailers, so that they can design systems that provide this information in the best manner possible.".

The majority of the studies on individualism versus collectivism values have focused on their implications on individuals' tendency to conform or stand out. Accordingly, we focus on the following characteristics of online reviews that are directly linked to conformity and are likely to be influenced by an author's individualist or collectivist cultural values: 1) conformity to (or deviation from) prior opinion and 2) emotional suppression (or expression). We address the following questions:

RQ1: How does individualism (collectivism) influence deviation from (conformity to) prior opinion in online reviews?

RQ2: How does individualism (collectivism) influence emotional expression (suppression) in online reviews?

RQ3: In turn, how do these cultural influences affect the perceived helpfulness of online reviews?

While Americans say, "the squeaky wheel gets the grease", the Japanese say, "the nail that stands out gets pounded down" (Goleman, 1990). Such variation in cultural values is not merely anecdotal: much research has established that it exists. …

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