The influence of electronic word-of-mouth (eWOM) skepticism on perceptions toward message credibility and beneficiary organization




Zhang, Xiao Jerry

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Electronic word-of-mouth (eWOM) has been cited as a significant factor influencing Internet users' perceptions in various situations, sectors and industries (Lee et al. 2009; Chatterjee 200; Dellarocas et al. 2007; Cox et al. 2008). However, as more evidence demonstrating the pervasive use of fake eWOM has been exposed (Forrest and Cao 2010; Malbon 2013), Internet users' confidence regarding the truthfulness and genuineness of eWOM may have been severely undermined. Different from most existing online trust and online information credibility literature, this research assumes that Internet users may have already developed a certain level of skepticism toward all eWOM messages (eWOM skepticism). In this study, our research focuses on how eWOM skepticism is influenced by personal and environmental factors, and how eWOM skepticism influences Internet users' message credibility assessment and their attitudes toward the organization that may get benefits from fake eWOM propaganda. To achieve this goal, first, we created the new measurement items for eWOM skepticism and validated them. Then, using control experiment, we collected the data, which were analyzed using Multivariate Analysis of Covariance (MANCOVA) and Partial Least Squares (PLS). The results revealed that dispositional trust, structural assurance and negative experience of eWOM significantly influence eWOM skepticism, and that eWOM skepticism is likely to influence Internet users' judgments and perceptions. Based on our model, we also found that the attributions Internet users made toward the eWOM messages are strong predictors for their attitude toward the eWOM messages and the potential beneficiary organization. This study emphasizes the importance of incorporating eWOM skepticism when investigating eWOM trust scenarios, and supports the argument about the coexistence of trust and distrust. Several theoretical and practical contributions are also discussed.


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Astroturfing, Deception, eWOM, Online review, Paranoid cognition, Skepticism



Information Systems and Cyber Security