Does anyone really read reviews?

It’s common to hear people complain about negative reviews, and they’re the ones that seem to garner all the press. If you’re a New Zealand music fan you’ll be familiar with Simon Sweetman’s famously scathing reviews of popular bands, for example. It’s also becoming much more common to hear of business collapsing at establishments that receive poor online reviews. Because of that I was fascinated to read a recent study that examined whether demand for wine is affected by expert reviews. The study conducted in Sweden found that there is an effect, but it’s not the negative review that people act on:

The effect of a positive review peaks in the week after the review with a demand increase of 6 percent. …There is a weak positive effect on demand of a review per se and no effect of a negative review. …The demand enhancing effect of a favorable review is greater for higher priced wines, for red wines and lower for reviews that appeared in tabloids.

Now put this together with what we know about wine tasting:

[The reseracher] took a middling Bordeaux and served it in two different bottles. One bottle was a fancy grand-cru. The other bottle was an ordinary vin du table. Despite the fact that they were actually being served the exact same wine, …[f]orty experts said the wine with the fancy label was worth drinking, while only 12 said the cheap wine was.

So being an expensive wine gets you a good review and a good review boosts sales. What can we take from this? Well, you’ll get the best drinking experience from a positively reviewed wine that know is expensive! Feed the cognitive biases, don’t fight them 😉