“What’s the most interesting (or surprising) thing…

about online reviews that you have learned through your research?”

I was asked this question by a woman I met at a yoga retreat a week ago, as we were exchanging our professional life stories during lunch one day. It’s one of those questions that’s like “So what do you plan to do after graduating with a degree in Art History?” You know, the type of question that you probably should have an answer to…and that fact that you don’t have one, and are suddenly on the spot, launches you into a state of momentary panic.

In my defense, I have to say that it’s not easy to boil down 6+ years of academic research into a pithy 30-second sound-bite to be shared with someone you’ve known for barely 10 minutes, as you’re chatting over platefuls of quinoa salad. In fact, I don’t even remember what I said in response to her question. But actually it IS a really good question. So I’ve been thinking about it some more over the last few days. And I believe I’ve come up with a decent-ish answer. Here it is:

Something totally unexpected that I learned as I wrote my book is the strong role that the future plays in our evaluation of past experiences. Even more than explaining how much you’ve loved, enjoyed or appreciated something – and even more than using superlatives like the best, the nicest, or the most delicious – the biggest test of how much you really liked something is this: Would you want to repeat the experience in the future? Ok, so the hotel was “nice and clean”…would you stay there again? Would you go back to that restaurant that you gave 4 stars to? Would you use that recipe to make those same brownies again? In my research, I’ve found that LOTS of reviewers use  references to the future to indicate their ultimate satisfaction with their consumer experiences. So when you see something like the following in the opening lines of a recipe review

We loved this dish. My husband and me and the cat. I’ll definitely make it again.

…you can be certain that the reviewer REALLY liked the recipe! Not only does she include the future reference “will makeagain” but along with that, she adds the stance adverb, definitely, which underscores her commitment to that statement. And, come on, even her cat loved the recipe! (And if you know any cats, you know that her cat certainly didn’t fake liking the dish, just to please her.)

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