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EMAC 2023 Annual

Consumer Coping Mechanisms and the Paradox of Deceptive Online Consumer Reviews (OCRs)

Published: May 24, 2023


Andrea Wetzler, Toulouse School of Management; Andreas Munzel, Toulouse 1 Capitole University (TSM Research)


Despite the increasing prevalence of deceptive online consumer reviews (OCRs), consumers continue to rely on them, with a growing number of consumers consulting reviews before making a purchase decision. We conducted two studies adopting the dual process theory and research on skepticism to address consumer coping methods in the context of deceptive OCRs. We first conducted a controlled, online, scenario-based, two-by-two, between-subject experiment, surveying 156 adults. We then conducted 17 in-depth one-on-one interviews to address the paradox found in our experimental studies. Our research shows that consumers spend less time browsing OCR platforms when primed for a high level of deceptive reviews than when they are primed for a low level, indicating that they do not invest additional time in deciphering fake from authentic reviews. In fact, consumers declare wanting to spend less time reading reviews when there is a high percentage of fake reviews. This is explained by their skepticism towards OCRs. With higher levels of fake reviews, consumer skepticism increases leading to aversion which in turn results in consumers wanting to spend less time reading OCRs. Our qualitative research shows that consumers seek OCRs because they believe that they can reduce their purchase risk and gain diagnostic information, despite being aware of the existence of fake reviews and deceptive practices, in part because they believe that they can decipher fake reviews from authentic ones by adopting coping mechanisms and using heuristics. Nevertheless, numerous studies show the contrary. Our research also indicates that there is a tipping point level, after which consumers would abandon OCR platforms. The research compliments research on OCRs and deceptive reviews and is a wake-up call for industry actors to both protect consumers as well as the OCR sector overall.