Funded PhD Research

Uri Barnea

People Express Less Extreme Opinions When Sharing With an Audience Who Has Experienced the Product Before

Marketing Department; Faculty Adviser: Jonah Berger

When people want to share their opinion about a product, how does knowing that the listener has experience with the product affect what they say? In a consumption world that is characterized by continuous sharing of opinions in platforms of social networks, word of mouth about products is bound to reach people who have consumed the product themselves, as well as people who have not. In fact, sharers (and companies motivated to improve product perceptions) can specifically target word of mouth towards audiences who had already experienced the product or towards audiences who are less likely to have experienced the product.

We find in controlled laboratory experiments that people express less extreme opinions when discussing products with listeners who experienced the products as well; in other words, people will share less negative opinions about bad products and less positive opinions about good products with audiences that have also previously experienced the product, compared to audiences with no prior product experience.

Our work is relevant to retailers in two ways: First, it can help them better interpret product reviews, and inconsistencies between word of mouth about the same products in different platforms. Second, it proposes ways to affect word of mouth in a beneficial direction, by encouraging people to share in platforms in which their positive opinions will be amplified, and their negative opinions will be attenuated.


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