In Search of Negativity Bias: An Empirical Study of Perceived Helpfulness of Online Reviews


Correspondence regarding this article should be sent to: Philip Fei Wu, Surrey Business School, University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey GU2 7XH, United Kingdom (


A basic tenet of psychology is that the psychological effects of negative information outweigh those of positive information. Three empirical studies show that the negativity bias can be attenuated or even reversed in the context of electronic word of mouth (eWoM). The first study analyzes a large sample of customer reviews collected from and concludes that negative reviews are no more helpful than positive ones when controlling for review quality The second study follows up with a virtual experiment that confirms the lack of negativity bias in evaluating the helpfulness of online reviews. The third study demonstrates that the negativity effect can be reversed by manipulating the baseline valences. This work challenges the conventional wisdom of “bad is stronger than good” and contributes to the understanding of the eWoM phenomenon.