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Abstract

Although word-of-mouth (WOM) is recognized as a powerful force in persuasion,we know little about the new communication phenomenon known as e-WOM. One of the main forms of e-WOM is the product reviews consumers post on different Web sites, and how this form of e-WOM stands up to this claim is yet unknown. For example, do consumers trust the accuracy of these reviews posted by anonymous reviewers, and, do readers trust negative and positive reviews equally? Past research has shown that people tend to weight negative information more than positive information during evaluation.Through an observation study and two laboratory experiments,we investigate the existence of this negativity effect in e-WOM consumer reviews for utilitarian versus hedonic products,and investigate the influence of the reader's attributions regarding the reviewer's motivations on this. Both types of studies show that product type moderates the effect of review valence, and readers exhibit a negativity bias for utilitarian product reviews only.Furthermore, the lab studies show that the reader's attributions about the motivations of the reviewer mediate the effect of this moderation on their attitude about the review.We find that compared with the utilitarian case, readers of negative hedonic product reviews are more likely to attribute the negative opinions expressed, to the reviewer's internal (or nonproduct related) reasons; and therefore are less likely to find the negative reviews useful. However, in the utilitarian case, readers' are more likely to attribute the reviewer's negative opinions to external (or product related) motivations, and therefore find negative reviews more useful than positive reviews on average.