You can't be both at the same time -- but you can switch around as you like. In the ever growing use of the Internet as a place to communicate with others asynchronously, the ability to rate products or learn about other consumers' experiences with a product that you are considering has become an important tool for consumers. An article in the September 2005 issue of the Journal of Consumer Research investigates further into this play between posters and lurkers. The research reveals that posters' negative opinions drop even further in the midst of other negative reviews.
"It appears that reading a negative review triggers posters' concerns with the social outcomes of their public evaluations, thereby causing them to strategically lower their public ratings. In fact, this bias was limited to posters' public opinions -- their private attitudes and thoughts did not differ from those of lurkers," finds Ann Schlosser (University of Washington). Schlosser's interest in the subject stemmed from her own experience after visiting a local restaurant and then going to the website, Citysearch, to post her opinion: "How might this influence the degree to which I incorporate others' reviews into my own? Past theorizing does not fully address the types of social pressures present in online group contexts like Citysearch. When these social pressures are taken into account, a different pattern of effects is predicted and observed."
Schlosser stresses the very practical applications of this research in consumer research: "Understanding whether consumers accurately post their actual experiences is important because the transmission of product information is a significant aspect of market operations, especially when the informed are weakly tied to the uninformed."
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