What makes an online review impolite? And how do we emotionally respond to online (im)politeness?

Lagedrukgebied | Nicolas Ruytenbeek | 30 October 2019

A cosy, brief and useful exchange

In the current era of digitalization, instead of posting a letter or giving a phone call, very often consumers directly voice their complaints and write reviews on the web. To do this, they use online platforms such as TripAdvisor, Booking.com, and social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, etc. This makes their previous experience with, for instance, a hotel, a restaurant, immediately accessible to other potential customers. Another specificity of online communication is the anonymity provided by the Internet, which increases the frequency of verbal aggression in comparison with face-to-face interactions.

Online communication has received a lot of attention from researchers. However, how people assess and emotionally react the (im)politeness of e-messages has remained largely unexplored. It is crucial to know more about the (im)politeness of online reviews because these perceptions are likely to play a role in making decisions, for instance when booking a hotel. To what extent are the review messages considered to be reliable and relevant?

In my postdoc project under Sofie Decock’s supervision, I investigate people’s reactions to different degrees of (im)politeness in reviews and complaints on the Internet. Using corpus-based stimuli from French native speakers, I am designing ecological experiments in which I will collect both subjective judgments about (im)politeness and objective, physiological responses to online reviews. I will also explore several types of information that are available in reviews and are therefore likely to shape (im)politeness perceptions: customer gender inferable from the customer’s first name and the number of reviews posted, as well as cultural differences (for example Belgian vs. French).

This research is a follow-up on joint work with Sofie Decock (MULTIPLES) and Ilse Depraetere (Université de Lille, STL) devoted to Twitter complaints. The abstracts of our conference presentations can be accessed here:


and here: https://4d94f0ff-5652-47bb-955f-075034c11c4a.filesusr.com/ugd/e75618_6972384e4333453896f13d3469fc514e.pdf