Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid: How Word of Mouth Influences the Speaker
Consumers frequently share stories about consumption experiences with others through word of mouth (WOM). Past research has focused on how hearing WOM influences the listener; I examine how sharing WOM influences the speaker. My proposed model outlines variables that determine storytelling language, predicts how specific language influences speakers' evaluations of experiences, and identifies the process through which language influences speakers. I test this model in five experimental studies and in a field study using Amazon.com data. I find that stories containing relatively more explaining language influence speakers through a process of sense-making. Sense-making helps consumers understand and recover from experiences by allowing them to figure out why experiences occurred and why they liked or disliked them. Making sense of experiences through explaining language has several consequences for consumers. Explaining language can cause paradoxical effects of WOM in terms of consumers' evaluations of experiences and their intentions to repeat and recommend experiences. Explaining positive experiences can decrease speakers' evaluations of experiences, making experiences less positive and decreasing consumers' willingness to repeat and recommend these experiences. Conversely, explaining negative experiences can increase speakers' evaluations of experiences, making experiences less negative and increasing consumers' willingness to repeat and recommend these experiences. In addition, making sense of and explaining experiences decreases consumers' intentions to spread future word of mouth about their experiences.
word of mouth
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