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Social Influence Creeps into Movie Reviews

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The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, specialty master's, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.

Apr 21, 2014
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New Smith research might alter your perspective on the next movie review you read online. Film critics sometimes react not just to the film itself, but also to one another, says Associate Professor of Management Dave Waguespack and Smith PhD Daniel Olson. When this happens, it can alter the critics’ rating of the film and content of the review.

“We took about 20,000 film reviews from and looked at reviews of the same movie in pairs,” says Waquespack. The ratings in one in 10 of the sets of reviews diverged by at least a half star on a four-star scale. “These were filed days apart during which one critic could have assessed the other’s writing.”

Such divergence was missing in pairs of reviews filed on the same day, when critics would have bee unable to read a counterpart’s review.

“This indications a tension between wanting to be accurate – to provide the best, objective information 00 and wanting to differentiate oneself from peer reviewers,” Waguespack says.

The findings, he added, draw “an interesting contrast” between film critics and their professional peers.

“In the case of financial analysts, if they try differentiating themselves, and they’re wrong, it shows up later and they’re punished. For film critics, arguably, there’s less punishment for being a deviant critic. Therefore, there’s more scope for them to differentiate themselves.”

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