Journal of Management Information Systems

Volume 30 Number 3 2013 pp. 311-343

Comprehension and Assessment of Product Reviews: A Review-Product Congruity Proposition

Huang, Liqiang, Tan, Chuan-Hoo, Ke, Weiling, and Wei, Kwok-Kee

ABSTRACT: This work anchors on the theories of cognitive fit and schema congruity to advance a review-product congruity proposition. The proposition states that the effects of product review content (either attribute or experience based) on the product review comprehension (reflected by perceived cognitive effort and review comprehension time) and assessment (manifested by perceived review helpfulness) of a consumer are contingent on the assessed product type (either search or experience product). The results of our first experiment support the proposition by revealing that the two matching conditions, (1) attribute-based reviews describing a search product and (2) experience-based reviews describing an experience product, could lead consumers to perceive higher review helpfulness and lower cognitive effort (subjective measure) to comprehend the reviews. However, the subjective evaluation of cognitive effort is not reinforced by the resulting review comprehension time (an objective assessment of comprehension effort), which suggests that consumers spend significantly more time processing reviews in the presence of the two matching conditions. A second experiment was conducted using the think-aloud method to gain further insights into the effects. We found that under the review-product matching conditions, consumers engage in deeper-level comprehension and expend more time in comprehension without realizing it, compared to consumers under the mismatching conditions. This research extends our current understanding of how review content and product reviews jointly influence the comprehension and assessment behavior of the consumer, and provides guidelines on the identification and the presentation of reviews to facilitate the judgment and decision making of potential consumers.

Key words and phrases: cognitive fit, product reviews, review assessment, review comprehension, schema congruity