“When “I” Becomes “You”: How and Why Perspective Taking Shapes Helpfulness Perceptions of Online Reviews” by Dr. Han ZHANG
Dr. Han ZHANG
Associate Professor of Information Technology Management
Scheller College of Business
Georgia Institute of Technology
Online reviews are inherently social in nature, as opinions from existing customers have a significant impact on prospective consumers reading the reviews. However, reviewers may provide their opinions either out of concern for others or out of their own self-interest, and little is known about the social aspect of online reviews. The present paper focuses on the role of reviewers’ perspective taking – the extent to which reviewers describe their experience from the perspective of prospective consumers (vs. their own) – and investigates how and why taking the perspective of prospective consumers may influence review readers’ perception of review helpfulness. Drawing on the perspective taking literature and the affective-cognitive model of consumers’ decision-making process, we posit that reviews that take the perspective of prospective consumers are more likely to be perceived helpful, and that this effect can be explained through both affective and cognitive processes (i.e., perceptions of reviewer attractiveness and reviewer similarity). We conducted two studies to test these hypotheses. In Study 1, real app reviews from Apple’s App Store were collected to examine the relationship between perspective taking and review helpfulness. In Study 2, an experiment was utilized to replicate results of the first study and further explore the proposed mediators. Our results demonstrate that the positive effect of perspective taking on review helpfulness is mediated via perceived reviewer attractiveness rather than perceived reviewer similarity. These findings reveal the important role of perspective taking in online reviews and provide practical implications for product/service providers, review platforms and reviewers.