From the Lab: The Power of Reviews

In a 2008 study, Yi-Fen Chen investigated the social factors that contribute to book sales, discovering several principles that can be applied to speaking.

First, Chen found further support for the power of social proof: when book consumers were shown that a book had a higher rating (in stars), or a higher sales volume, they were more likely to buy the book.

Second, Chen found that recommendations by fellow consumers were even more effective than recommendations by an expert. For example, people were more likely to buy a book when they were told “this recommendation is based on other consumer selections” than when they were told “this recommendation is based on evaluation by a tourism expert.” (While consumer recommendations worked better than expert recommendations, both methods were more effective than no recommendation.)

In The Science of Speaking, I present both of these approaches, noting that you can make your ideas more attractive by telling your audience that many other people are already applying them or backing them up with expert opinions. While this study shows once again that both strategies work, it also suggests that in some contexts, the former strategy may work even better.

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