All posts by 365583nh

The perceived helpfulness of positive and negative online reviews

A large amount of literature is devoted to researching the conditions and motives for customers to leave an online review and the effect of these positive and negative online reviews on the product sales. It is argued that the willingness of customers to post a review is amongst others influenced by the magnitude of disconfirmation – the discrepancy between the expected and experienced assessment of the same product – (Ho, Wu, Tan, 2017) and that negative online reviews impact the product sales more significantly than positive online reviews (Chavalier & Mayzlin, 2006). Nevertheless, the helpfulness of the positive and negative online reviews as perceived by the customers is present day not covered extensively in the online word-of-mouth literature. The limited current empirical literature has concluded mixed contradicting results. The paper “When Do Consumers Value Positive vs. Negative Reviews? An Empirical Investigation of Confirmation Bias in Online Word of Mouth” by Yin, Mitra and Zhang (2016) examines the helpfulness of online reviews on the basis of confirmation bias, confidence in initial beliefs and positive-negative asymmetry.



Confirmation bias – a tendency of humans to overweigh information that confirms (versus disconfirms) their initial beliefs and position (Klayman & Ha, 1987)

Customers initial beliefs – the extent of perceived certainty that their beliefs are accurate (Smith & Swinyard, 1988)

Positive-negative asymmetry – whether positive or negative reviews are perceived to be more helpful by customers (Baumeister et al., 2001)


Article review

The authors developed thee hypotheses based on existing literature. Confirmation bias is argued to have an effect in the perceived helpfulness of the review.  The information provided in reviews confirming the customers’ initial beliefs stimulates less psychological discomfort than information that contradicts their initial beliefs. This idea composes the first hypothesis. Furthermore, the extent of confirmation bias is likely to depend on the confidence of the customers in their initial beliefs. It is argued that a high dispersion of ratings indicates low agreement among reviewers. A high dispersion of ratings lowers the validity of the average ratings, consequently decreasing the certainness of the initial beliefs. This stream of thought composes hypothesis two. Additionally, the paper reviews the effect of the confirmation bias on the positive-negative asymmetry. It is suggested that confirmation bias can influence the degree of perceived helpfulness for positive reviews when the average product rating is high and for negative reviews when the average product rating is low, creating hypothesis 3. A panel data set from Apple’s App Store comprising of 106.045 reviews from 505 different applications was extracted to conduct three types of analysis including cross-sectional analysis and vote-level analysis. All hypotheses were supported.


Main findings of the article

  • The perceived helpfulness of individual online reviews is affected by the confirmation bias.
  • The confidence of customer of their initial belief about a product as formed on the basis of summary rating statistics moderates the tendency of confirmation bias.
  • The confirmation bias influences the positive-negative asymmetry, for positive reviews when the average product rating is high and for negative reviews when the average product rating is low.


Strengths & weaknesses and relevance

One of the main strong points of the paper by Yin, Mitra and Zhang (2016) is the academic contributions. Within the discourse of online word-of-mouth, the study is the first to include confirmation bias and initial belief to explain possible positive-negative asymmetry. The inclusion of these elements enhances the understanding of the helpfulness of online reviews, providing clarity in the current literature. One of the main weakness is that the initial belief of the product is accounted for by the product’s summary rating, however other aspects might influence the initial belief of the product as well possibly influencing the proposed moderation on confirmation bias. In terms of managerial implications, the deeper understanding of the helpfulness of reviews allows for review website to adjust the design of review placement based on the findings. It is helpful to account for the confirmation bias to increase the objectivity of the review site, hence including both negative and positive comments on the main page.


Discussion points

Firstly, in the paper the statistics of Apple’s App Store are used to conduct the study, therefore the products reviewed are applications. Would the results have differed if the statistics of other products were used i.e. Coolblue washing machines? Secondly, keeping the results of the study in mind. What results are expected if the perceived helpfulness was not generically conducted (useful/not useful), but rated? Would the confirmation bias effect the degree of usefulness?



Baumeister RF, Bratslavsky E, Finkenauer C, Vohs KD (2001), Bad is stronger than good. Review of General Psychology, 5(4), pp. 323–370.

Chevalier JA, Mayzlin D (2006), The effect of word of mouth on sales: Online book reviews, Journal of Marketing Research 43(3), pp. 345–354.

Ho, Yi-Chun (Chad) and Wu, Junjie and Tan Yong (2017), Disconfirmation Effect on Online Rating Behavior: A Structural Model, Information Systems Research, 28(3), pp. 626-642.

Klayman  J,  Ha  YW  (1987)  Confirmation,  disconfirmation,  and information in hypothesis testing, Psychological Review, 94(2) pp. 211–228.

Smith RE, Swinyard WR (1988), Cognitive response to advertising and trial: Belief strength, belief confidence and product curiosity, Journal of Advertising, 17(3) pp, 3–14.

Yin D, Mitra S, Zhang H (2016), Research Note—When Do Consumers Value Positive vs. Negative Reviews? An Empirical Investigation of Confirmation Bias in Online Word of Mouth, Information Systems Review, 27(1), pp. 131-144.




The sharing economy: children’s toys

Nowadays the electronical screen devices provide endless entertainment opportunities for children. Apple has a special ‘kids’ section in de App Store offering numerous different kinds of apps as games apps, educative apps, book reading apps etc. A survey conducted in 2014 already concluded that touch screens are the primary play activity followed by game consoles as shown in the figure below. It is hard for the traditional toys business to compete with the rapidly developing online kids’ entertainment industry (Michael Cohen Group, 2014).

Afbeelding1 childrenSource: (Michael Cohen Group, 2014)

Parents try to limit the screen-time per day of their children as they want to promote an active lifestyle as the consequences of frequent use of screen devices are severe. Physical health issues are one of the main concerns for parents as research shows that excessive screen time can lead to serious problems including obesity, higher risk of Type 2 Diabetes and increase abdominal fat (Nightingale et al. 2017, Suchert et al. 2016). Furthermore, on-screen activities cannot replace certain essential skill developments as for example hand-eye coordination and creativity.

One of the main reasons children are not playing as much with physical toys is that they lose interest overtime. Toys are expensive and the majority of households are not able to afford new toys on a regular basis (Pley, 2018). The company Pley provides the solution to the abovementioned issues. As the founder states:

“Being frustrated with finding the appropriate toys to my children as their interests change constantly, I realized there had to be a smarter way to play. Inspired by the sharing economy, we envisioned Pley.”

-Ranan Lachman, Founder of Pley


Business Model

Pley is a subscription based toy delivery service company based in the United States. Currently the company has over 300.000+ subscriptions. Pley provides two different services:

(1) Surprise box subscription

Afbeelding2 children.pngThe surprise box is available in different themes. The price for the boxes depend on subscription around $22/box. The boxes are delivered every 2 months.

(2) Toy Library subscription

Afbeelding3 children.pngThe toy library is a subscription based toy rental service. Depending on the subscription $12.99 for 1 credit/month and $29.99 for 3 credits/month the customer can choose from over 500+ toys in the toy library. The service applies the pick-enjoy-return&repeat method. This is theoretically the most interesting service of Pley, therefore the blog will focus on the Toy Library.

The toy library of Pley makes use of the concept of the sharing economy, more specific the collaborative consumption. Collaborative consumption can be defined as “the peertopeer based activity of obtaining, giving, or sharing the access to goods and services coordinated through communitybased online services” (Hamari et al., 2015).  The coordination of the toys is monitored by Pley, acting as a platform arranging the exchanges as shown in the figure below. Furthermore, there is the possibility to send old toys to Pley and receive a monetary value.

Afbeelding4 children

The success of Pley is explained by the fact that the company actively takes into consideration the needs of the customer and developed a platform that serves the needs of the customers. The customers want to (1) let their children play with physical toys in order to improve health and develop critical skills (2) let their children play with novel toys regularly and (3) not spend too much money on toys. The toy library of Pley conforms to all the wishes by engaging the customer in Pley’s subscription based toy sharing platform.

Efficiency criteria

The business model of Pley’s toy library is based on joint profitability of both the company and the customers. The customers benefit as they are able to receive and return toys regularly at a low rate, which would otherwise not have been possible as the alternative for novelty in toys is to buy new toys in the store at a high rate or let the children play on on-screen devices, both not desired. Pley benefits from the profits made from providing the subscription based service and from toys send to Pley they can use in the toy library, in the long term providing profit.

Furthermore, Pley meets the feasibility of required reallocations criteria. First, the polity and judiciary aspects are not a factor of concern for the business model as the activities are political independent and within the U.S law. Efficient social norms are carefully considered as the company is a Certified B Corporation and applies the buy-one-give-one model where for every sold toy, one toy is given to a child in need an underdeveloped area in the world (Pley, 2018).


  1. Hamari, J., Sjöklint, M., & Ukkonen, A. (2015). The sharing economy: Why people participate in collaborative consumption. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology
  2. Michael Cohen Group, Toys, Learning, & Play Summit. (2014) From: Assessed: 17-02-18
  3. Nightingale, C.M., Rudnicka, A.R., Donin, A.S., Sattar, N., Cook, D.G., Whincup, P.H., & Owen, C.G. (2017). Screen time is associated with adiposity and insulin resistance in children. Archives of Disease in Childhood, 0:1-5.
  4. Pley, 2018. From Assessed: 17-02-18
  5. Suchert, V., Hanewinkel, R., & Isensee, B. (2016). Screen time, weight status and the self-concept of physical attractiveness in adolescents. Journal of Adolescence, 48:11-17.