Pseudo-reviews: Conceptualization and consumer effects of a new online Phenomenon

Abstract: A pseudo-review is a type of online user-generated review (“review”) posted on an e-commerce website that often resembles an authentic review on the surface, telling an exaggerated story about alleged product use. However, while authentic reviews often include humor as a stylistic device to convey a genuine product evaluation, pseudo-reviews use humor to mock some product aspect. This research introduces, conceptualizes, and investigates consumer response to pseudo-reviews. Study 1 demonstrates that pseudo-reviews have little effect on product attitude when presented in isolation. However, in Study 2, when pseudo-reviews are presented together with authentic reviews, they negatively affect attitude and purchase intentions, but only to a limited extent, in that medium level incongruity (2 pseudo-reviews and 2 authentic reviews) ratings were lower than the control condition (no pseudo-reviews and 2 authentic reviews). The low level (one pseudo-review) and high level (four pseudo-reviews) incongruity conditions had no distinguishable effects on product evaluations compared to the control conditions. The paper discusses theoretical implications for schema incongruity and optimal stimulus level literature streams, as well as managerial implications for companies that seek to understand how to manage their online reputation given the growing importance and prevalence of user-generated content.