Journal of Management Information Systems

Volume 36 Number 2 2019 pp. 610-638

Social Influence on Future Review Sentiments: An Appraisal-Theoretic View

Jha, Ashish Kumar and Shah, Snehal


Given the importance of online reviews, as evidenced by extant research, we studied an understudied area of the impact of past reviews on sentiments of future reviews. Past studies in the emergent area of incidence of reviews have investigated the generation of ratings but there seems to be a lacuna in the second dimension of the reviews (i.e., the textual sentiments). Through a controlled experiment (N = 232), we analyzed the impact of past reviews on reviewers’ subsequent texts by using the unique lens of social appraisal theory. We found the influence of the selection of reviews on most e-commerce websites could strongly bias subsequent written review sentiments, and this effect is more pronounced when the reviewer experienced higher disconfirmation. We also observed review writers tend to post extreme reviews in the absence of any benchmark or prior reviews. The study results extend the understanding of users’ reviews under social influence and enhance the appraisal theoretic understanding of review generation.

Key words and phrases: social appraisal theory, sentiment analysis, online reviews, controlled experiment, e-WoM, user reviews