Attitude towards Reviews in General
Another construct which is closely related to trust in eWOM is attitude towards reviews in general (review attitude or RAtt). In reference to the appropriate advertising literature (Lutz, 1985), this thesis defines the construct as the learned predisposition to respond in a consistently favourable or unfavourable manner to online customer reviews in general. By adopting the argumentation of early contributions to the field (e.g., Obermiller & Spangenberg, 1998) but also more recent academic literature (e.g., Soh et al. 2009), this thesis agrees that eWOM trust may be a critical antecedent (or correlate) for some aspects of consumers’ attitudes toward online reviews and recommendations. For instance, a lack of eWOM trust may be a basis for generally disliking eWOM communication. Nevertheless a consumer’s positive or negative attitude typically depends on many other dimensions which are not typically related to the trust concept itself. For example, customers enjoy funny customer reviews, but at the same time readers often doubt the truthfulness of extremely humorous reviews. At the same time, the majority of consumers tend to evaluate truthfulness as something that is positive, and falseness negatively, which leads to the assumption that one should expect the eWOM trust scale (eWT- S) to overlap in some aspects with a consumer’s overall attitude toward reviews in general.
A review of several scales provides evidence that trust and attitude toward eWOM are related but conceptually separated constructs (Obermiller & Spangenberg, 1998). In fact it appears that in the conceptualizations of review attitude, few items are included that appear to reflect general trust, but on the other hand, include many other items that seemingly measure other dimensions of attitude that capture specific aspects unrelated to trust in eWOM (e.g., Park et al., 2007). For instance, a variety of beliefs concerning positive as well as negative outcomes of marketing communications (e.g., informational value, entertainment, interruptive nature, ethics, deception, and falsehood) are typically included to measure a consumer’s generalized attitudinal tendency (Bauer & Greyser, 1968; Mehta, 2000; Mehta & Purvis, 1995). The majority of this set of beliefs is not an integral part of eWOM information trust per se, but overlaps do exist. This is given as various researchers choose to include the factors of believability (integrity) and information usefulness (ability) in their general attitude measures (e.g., Olney, Holbrook & Batra, 1991; Sandage & Leckenby, 1980). On the other hand, as mentioned earlier, eWOM trust is conceptualized as including cognitive, emotional as well as behavioural elements of trust. In contrast, measures of RAtt typically focus on the consumers’ cognitive and/or more rarely on emotional beliefs (e.g., Casalo et al., 2011), but none recognized both or behavioural intention in the conceptualization of attitude. Therefore, this thesis argues that while some similarities exist, eWOM trust typically covers some attitudinal aspects that are not typically mirrored by a consumer’s general attitude towards reviews. Review attitude is hence a very broad and unspecific attitude towards OCR in general. Due to its inclusion of more relevant aspects for information adoption (namely trusting attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours), it is reasonable to assume that eWOM trust is in contrast a better predictor of review and shopping-related behaviours (Hogg & Vaughan, 2011).