How online consumer reviews are influenced by the language and valence of prior reviews: A construal level perspective

Goele Aerts*, Tim Smits, P. W.J. Verlegh

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Online reviews are a commonly used source of product information to guide consumers in their purchase decisions. This source of information helps them to make better-informed decisions. Communicators on online review platforms have multiple goals, but only one of them is to provide accurate information. Before posting comments, they could read previous reviews which will in turn influence their written comments. The impact of previous reviews on readers has been demonstrated. However, its influence on writers has hardly been studied. We examined how language abstraction in reviews is influenced by language abstraction in prior reviews, and whether this biased language use may have a subsequent effect on the persuasiveness of reviews. Building on literature about linguistic style matching and construal level theory, the present paper reports two experiments (N = 101 and N = 189) showing that people use more concrete language when prior reviews also use concrete language (i.e. words that refer to tangible, qualities or characteristics), and that this concreteness leads to more favorable attitudes towards the reviewer and the product. These findings suggest that language abstraction is contagious, review platforms could capitalize on this by seeding concrete reviews.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)855-864
Number of pages10
JournalComputers in Human Behavior
Issue numberOctober
Publication statusPublished - 2017



  • Construal level theory
  • Language abstraction
  • Online consumer reviews
  • Prior review
  • Valence

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