The Effects of Product Review Photos on Consumers’ Perceptions of Reviewers and Consumptive Outcomes: A Socio-Cognitive Information Processing Perspective
Type of DegreePhD Dissertation
Consumer and Design Sciences
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E-commerce product reviews are tantamount to product and brand successes. However, the breadth of existing literature overlooks a critical aspect of modern review publishing—the ability for reviewers to share product photos. Society is entrenched by a strong culture of social media networking. This research conceptualized that consumers socio-cognitively process product review photos similarly to photos posted to social media, impacting their perceptions of product reviewers’ motivations, attitudes, and subsequently, consumptive outcomes. This study was the first of its kind to develop a socio-cognitive information processing perspective to explicate the afore phenomenon. In doing such, premises of seminal socio-cognitive theories (Script Theory, Social Cognitive Theory, and Attribution Theory) served as a foundation to develop 12 hypotheses examining the effects of product review photo attributes (product visibility and reviewer visibility) on consumers’ perceptions of reviewer motivations (altruism, self-enhancement) and attitudes towards reviewers. Further, this study investigated the effects of consumers’ attitudes towards reviewers on their consumptive outcomes (brand attitudes and product purchase intentions). The moderating effect of consumers’ personal social media use integration was further examined in relationships between the reviewer visibility attribute and perceptions of reviewer motivations. Hypotheses were tested using a 2 (product visibility: low vs. high) × 2 (reviewer visibility: absent vs. present) × 2 (product: necklace vs. houseplant) between-subjects online experiment employing a national sample of 622 U.S. female online consumers recruited from a sampling and survey distribution company. A combination of factor analyses, multivariate statistics, and structural equation modeling were employed to reveal mixed hypotheses support with several differential product effects. For the houseplant product, results demonstrated consumers perceived product reviewers to be more motivated by altruism and had higher reviewer attitudes when photos had high (vs. low) product visibility. No significant effects were found for either product in the relationship between product visibility and consumers’ perception of reviewer self-enhancement. For the necklace product, results demonstrated consumers perceived product reviewers to be more motivated by self-enhancement and had higher attitudes towards reviewers when the reviewer was present (vs. absent) in the photo. No significant effects were found for either product in the relationship between reviewer visibility and consumers’ perception of reviewer altruism. Further, findings supported a significant positive relationship between consumers’ perception of reviewer altruism and reviewer attitudes. Despite what was hypothesized, findings also revealed that consumers’ perception of reviewer self-enhancement increased their reviewer attitudes. Overall, results supported a significant relationship between consumers’ reviewer attitudes and their consumptive outcomes. Where no overall moderating effect was detected of the social media use integration variable, for the houseplant product, results demonstrated that high social media users perceived reviewers to be more motivated by self-enhancement when the reviewer was present (vs. absent) in their photos. Several critical theoretical and practical implications from this study are discussed.