How reviewers’ use of profanity affects perceived
usefulness of online reviews
Published online: 22 May 2018
Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018
Abstract This research explores the effects of profanity on perceptions of online
reviews’ usefulness. Based on the prior research that described asymmetric attribution
effects, we predict that when consumers see profanity in an online review, their
reactions differ depending on the valence of the review. Specifically, when profanity
is used in a negative review, it should reduce review usefulness because of decreased
perceived reviewer objectivity. Among positive reviews, profanity increases review
usefulness through greater perceived reviewer credibility. Through analysis of Yelp
data, we show that the effect of profanity on usefulness depends on review valence.
Experimentally, we demonstrate the opposing mediating effects of perceived objectiv-
ity and credibility on the usefulness of the review.
Our main research interest is to understand how consumers react to positive/negative
reviews including profanity. After discussing profanity and its manifestations, we
describe how profanity usage may affect the perceived usefulness of online reviews.
Specifically, we explain possible moderators and mediators of our proposed effect.
Finally, we offer managerial implications and describe future research potential.
Mark Lett (2018) 29:151–163
* Michael Hair
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Campus Box 1100, Edwardsville, IL 62026, USA
Crummer Graduate School of Business, Rollins College, 1000 Holt Ave, Winter Park,
FL 32789, USA