Online product reviews and the description–experience gap


People can access information about choices in at least two ways: via summary descriptions that provide an overview of potential outcomes and their likelihood of occurrence or via sequential presentation of outcomes. Provided with the former, people make decisions from description; with the latter, they make decisions from experience. Recent investigations involving risky choices have demonstrated a robust and systematic description–experience gap. Specifically, when people make decisions from experience, rare events tend to have less impact than what they deserve according to their objective probability. Here, we show that this description–experience gap generalizes from choices involving monetary gambles to choices based on (hypothetical) online product ratings. We further show that causes that have been identified in the context of risky choice also contribute to the description–experience gap in choice based on online product ratings: reliance on relatively small samples of information and overweighting of recently sampled information (recency). We conclude with a discussion of the practical implications of our results and identify promising directions for cross-disciplinary investigations.

In Journal of Behavioral Decision Making