Customer Reviews Are Not Always Informative: The Impact of Effortful Versus Heuristic Processing

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Online customer reviews and ratings are powerful sources of information that influence travel purchase decisions. The complexity of the online environment lends itself to heuristic processing, which aids in decision-making yet may bias perceptions. However, enlisting systematic processing reduces dependence on heuristics. Research suggests that base rate information is often neglected in favor of information that is more salient but less diagnostic. In the online review environment, base rate information takes the form of recommendation percentages, and review content varies in usefulness. This research examines the effect of base rate information, review content, and processing effort in a 2 × 2 × 2 experimental design. The results indicate that ambiguous base rate information and high processing effort cause consumers to pay greater attention to review content. In turn, this influences consumers’ perceptions, decisions, and recall. The findings deepen our understanding of dual processing systems and how they influence consumer choice.


Online reviews; Review content; Heuristic processing; Effortful processing; Base-rate information; Decision-making



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