Manufactured opinions: The effect of manipulating online product reviews

Mengzhou ZHUANG, Geng CUI*, Ling PENG

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

99 Citations (Scopus)


Previous research assumes that consumers can detect and discount the manipulation of online product reviews or are oblivious to such practices. We posit that the equilibrium occurs due to the cues of manipulation, consumer suspicion and their expertise. Our analysis of hotel occupancy data shows that the effect of adding positive reviews and deleting negative reviews on sales exhibits an inverted U-curve. Moreover, weak brands suffer more from excessive adding. Our laboratory experiments find that adding affects consumer purchase intention, but it also arouses suspicion, which exerts a negative mediating effect. Deleting is more disguised and difficult to be suspected. Novices are more influenced by manipulations compared with their experienced counterparts. Thus, contrary to the popular belief of “fake it until you make it,” excessive adding leads to consumer distrust and may backfire. Deleting exacerbates information asymmetry and results in adverse selection, thus warrants restraint and regulation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24-35
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Business Research
Early online date16 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018


  • E-commerce
  • Manipulation
  • Online product reviews
  • Persuasion knowledge
  • Suspicion


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