Date of Award

12-2017

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Industrial Engineering

Committee Member

Dr. Kapil Chalil Madathil, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Dr. Anand K. Gramopadhye

Committee Member

Dr. Sandra D. Eksioglu

Abstract

With the increase in the number of online review websites, electronic word-of-mouth (eWOM) has become a vital information source for consumers. People share their views on the Internet in different forms from blogs to reviews on various websites. At the same time, people prefer to remain anonymous or use fake virtual identities for reasons extending from privacy to enjoyment. This freedom afforded by anonymity has led people to write posts without fully considering the potential consequences of their actions. Moreover, there is increasing concern about the trustworthiness of such posts as there is typically no editorial process for verification of their authenticity and has the potential to be unreliable and false. The initial study investigated the effects of decision aids in the form of reaction to a post and the nature of the posts on how people make sense of information and then make decisions based on anonymous posts. The study used a scenario of a user looking at reviews of a café and a fall concert and employed a 3 (reaction to a post-- no reaction, thumbs up and thumbs down) * 2 (nature of the posts-- supporting and non-supporting) between subjects experimental design. This study primarily investigated the level of trust, the likelihood of completing a particular scenario and the confidence level in the decision using 189 participants. The results indicated that a thumbs up reaction exhibited some effect, improving the decision making slightly; however, it was not significantly different compared to no reaction. On the other hand, the thumbs down reaction made the decision making more difficult as well as created uncertainty about the decision made. The second study investigated the effect of incorporating historical data of the user in conjunction with the reaction to a post on the sensemaking process of a user. This study used a similar scenario of a user looking at restaurant reviews and developed a 3 (reaction to a review-- thumbs up, no reaction, thumbs down) * 2 (reputation score-- high and low) * 2 (number of previous reviews-- high and low) * 2 (nature of the reviews-- supporting and non-supporting) * 2 (level of anonymity-- anonymous and non-anonymous reviews, the latter including personal details of the user) mixed experimental design. This study primarily investigated the response to the choice question about whether or not to go to the restaurant, the level of trust in the information, the likelihood of going to the restaurant and the confidence level in the decision using 200 participants. The results found that reputation scores complemented the reaction to a review, improving the trust in the information and confidence in the decision made. Users presented with a supporting review with thumbs up reaction and a high reputation had the highest scores on the dependent variables (DV), while supporting reviews with a thumbs down reaction and low reputation had the lowest. When the participants read a non-supporting review with a thumbs down reaction, they decided to go the restaurant although they were not confident in their decisions. Based on the results from the studies, we believe incorporating a user rating scale such as reputation scores could help in controlling the authenticity of the posted information and could also reduce false or biased reviews.

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