Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid: How Word of Mouth Influences the Storyteller
Consumers frequently tell stories about consumption experiences through word of mouth (WOM). These WOM stories may be told traditionally, through spoken, face-to-face conversation, or nontraditionally, through written online reviews or other electronic channels. Past research has focused on how traditional and nontraditional WOM influences listeners and firms. This research instead addresses how specific linguistic content in nontraditional WOM influences the storyteller. The current article focuses on explaining language content, through which storytellers reason about why experiences happened or why experiences were liked or disliked. Four studies examine how and why explaining language influences storytellers’ evaluations of and intentions to repeat, recommend, and retell stories about their experiences. Compared to nonexplaining language, explaining language influences storytellers by increasing their understanding of consumption experiences. Understanding dampens storytellers’ evaluations of and intentions toward positive and negative hedonic experiences but polarizes storytellers’ evaluations of and intentions toward positive and negative utilitarian experiences.
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