The Information Science Colloquium Speaker for Wednesday, October 26, will be Jonah Berger. He is a Marketing Professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, where he studies social influence, word of mouth, information diffusion, and how products, ideas, and behaviors catch on. His research examines how psychological process at the individual and dyadic level aggregate up into social contagion and trends. Berger has won a number of awards for teaching and research and is the bestselling author of Contagious: Why Things Catch On and Invisible Influence.

Title: How Language Shapes Word of Mouth's Impact

Abstract: Word of mouth impacts consumer behavior, but how does the language used shape that impact? And might certain types of consumers be more likely to use certain types of language, affecting whose words have more influence? Five studies, including textual analysis of over 1,000 online reviews, demonstrate that compared to more implicit endorsements (e.g., “I liked it” or “I enjoyed it”), explicit endorsements (e.g., “I recommend it”) are more persuasive and increase purchase intent. This occurs because explicit endorsers are perceived to like the product more and have more expertise.  Looking at the endorsement language consumers actually use, however, shows that consumer knowledge does affect endorsement style, but in the opposite direction.  Because novices are less aware that others have heterogeneous product preferences, they are more likely to use explicit endorsements. Consequently, the endorsement styles novices and experts tend to use may lead to greater persuasion by novices. These findings highlight the important role that language, and endorsement styles in particular, play in shaping the effects of word of mouth.