Study: People favor products with more reviews, regardless of what reviews say

Product reviews are a strong indicator of how consumers make purchasing decisions more than anything else, said researchers who conducted a recent study.
By Amy Wallace  |  Aug. 21, 2017 at 4:38 PM
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Aug. 21 (UPI) -- New research suggests that consumers use reviews and ratings by other consumers to drive their purchasing decision-making.

The study, published today in Psychological Science, found that people favor products that have more reviews, even if they have lower ratings than an alternative product.

"It's extremely common for websites and apps to display the average score of a product along with the number of reviews. Our research suggests that, in some cases, people might take this information and make systematically bad decisions with it," Derek Powell, a researcher at Stanford University, said in a press release.

"We found that people were biased toward choosing to purchase more popular products and that this sometimes led them to make very poor decisions."

Researchers studied actual products available on and found no relationship between the number of reviews a product had and its average rating. A large number of reviews was not an indicator of a product's quality.

"By examining a large dataset of reviews from, we were able to build a statistical model of how people should choose products. We found that, faced with a choice between two low-scoring products, one with many reviews and one with few, the statistics say we should actually go for the product with few reviews, since there's more of a chance it's not really so bad," Powell said. "But participants in our studies did just the opposite: They went for the more popular product, despite the fact that they should've been even more certain it was of low quality."

The results indicated that consumers use the number of reviews as a way to gauge a product's popularity regardless of a product's average rating.

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