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Does expressing subjectivity in online reviews enhance persuasion?

Stephanie Q. Liu (The Ohio State University, Columbus, USA)
Marie Ozanne (The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania, USA)
Anna S. Mattila (The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania, USA)

Journal of Consumer Marketing

ISSN: 0736-3761

Article publication date: 11 June 2018




People express subjectivity and objectivity in everyday communication, yet little is known about how such linguistic content affects persuasion in electronic word-of-mouth (eWOM). Drawing on the congruity theory and the selectivity model, the present study proposes that the effectiveness of subjectivity/objectivity expressions in an online review is contingent on whether the consumption experience is primarily hedonic or utilitarian, and whether the decision maker is a male or female. Furthermore, this study aims to examine the psychological mechanism that underlies the proposed effects.


This research used an experimental design to test the hypotheses. Four versions of online review stimuli were created. Participants were asked to read the online reviews and to complete a survey.


The findings indicate that expressing subjectivity (vs objectivity) in online reviews effectively boosts men’s purchase intention in the hedonic context and women’s purchase intention in the utilitarian context. Furthermore, the mediation analysis reveals that perceived relevance of the review is the psychological mechanism explaining the joint effects of linguistic style, consumption type and gender on purchase intention.


This research is the first to examine expressing subjectivity (vs objectivity) as a persuasion strategy in online reviews. Findings of this research add to the growing literature on linguistic effects in eWOM. Furthermore, this research deepens the understanding of conversational norms for hedonic vs utilitarian consumption in consumer-generated content and gender differences in processing online reviews.



The authors thank the Marriott Foundation for the funding of this research.


Liu, S.Q., Ozanne, M. and Mattila, A.S. (2018), "Does expressing subjectivity in online reviews enhance persuasion?", Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 35 No. 4, pp. 403-413.



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