Unit 10: Judgment and Decision Making on the Internet

Many people think that the word judgment is spelled judgement, however this is a misspelling of the word. Judgment is used frequently while on the internet; think of all the times you’ve read online reviews to decide whether or not to buy something, or how many times you heard a rumor online and you had to choose whether or not to believe it.

Numerous studies have been done on the subject of judgment as it relates to the internet, studying everything from parental awareness and use of online physician rating sites, to effects of gender and expertise on consumers’ motivation to read online hotel reviews. I read a study by Banerjee et al. called “Using Supervised Learning to Classify Authentic and Fake Online Reviews.” In this study, researchers were looking to find a way to distinguish between fake and real online reviews for hotels, using 10 different algorithms. They believed that real and fake reviews could be distinguished by the four following linguistic clues: understandability, level of details, writing style, and cognition indicators. They figured that fake reviews would be less detailed because the review would be based solely on imagination, they would have more exaggerated writing styles, they would be less understandable, and there would be more indication of cognition.

The researchers looked at 900 authentic reviews and 900 fake reviews for 15 popular hotels in Asia. There were 600 total positive reviews, 600 neutral reviews, and 600 negative reviews used. Reviews were only used if they were in English, if they contained meaningful titles, and if they had meaningful descriptions of at least 150 characters.

The results of the study are pretty impressive. The most successful algorithm out of the 10 was correct in figuring out if a review was authentic 74% of the time. I don’t know exactly how these algorithms work, but since they do, they could be a great tool to use in the future for travel sites and product review sites so that consumers can be sure that they are reading legitimate reviews. I know I’m always skeptical of online reviews, especially if there are no negative reviews because there’s a high change that they’re biased or fake. If algorithms were used more frequently, I think I would have more trust in online reviews, and I wouldn’t be worries about whether or not my judgment of the validity of the review was correct.

Speaking of reviews, Amazon.com has millions of reviews for just about any product you could ever think of. While most are sincere reviews of products from people who have actually purchased what they’re reviewing, a few products set themselves up to receive satirical reviews. One product I found that had many satirical reviews was the Hutzler 571 Banana Slicer. I found the reviews to be pretty amusing. Here are some of my favorites:

No more winning for you, Mr. Banana! By SW3K  on March 3, 2011:

For decades I have been trying to come up with an ideal way to slice a banana. “Use a knife!” they say. Well…my parole officer won’t allow me to be around knives. “Shoot it with a gun!” Background check…HELLO! I had to resort to carefully attempt to slice those bananas with my bare hands. 99.9% of the time, I would get so frustrated that I just ended up squishing the fruit in my hands and throwing it against the wall in anger. Then, after a fit of banana-induced rage, my parole officer introduced me to this kitchen marvel and my life was changed. No longer consumed by seething anger and animosity towards thick-skinned yellow fruit, I was able to concentrate on my love of theatre and am writing a musical play about two lovers from rival gangs that just try to make it in the world. I think I’ll call it South Side Story.

Banana slicer…thanks to you, I see greatness on the horizon.

Saved my marriage By Mrs Toledo  on July 30 2012:

What can I say about the 571B Banana Slicer that hasn’t already been said about the wheel, penicillin, or the iPhone…. this is one of the greatest inventions of all time. My husband and I would argue constantly over who had to cut the day’s banana slices. It’s one of those chores NO ONE wants to do! You know, the old “I spent the entire day rearing OUR children, maybe YOU can pitch in a little and cut these bananas?” and of course, “You think I have the energy to slave over your damn bananas? I worked a 12 hour shift just to come home to THIS?!” These are the things that can destroy an entire relationship. It got to the point where our children could sense the tension. The minute I heard our 6-year-old girl in her bedroom, re-enacting our daily banana fight with her Barbie dolls, I knew we had to make a change. That’s when I found the 571B Banana Slicer. Our marriage has never been healthier, AND we’ve even incorporated it into our lovemaking. THANKS 571B BANANA SLICER!

Angle is wrong  By Jim Anderson  on August 1, 2012:

I tried the banana slicer and found it unacceptable. As shown in the picture, the slicer is curved from left to right. All of my bananas are bent the other way.

Kirk Cameron’s banana slicer By Noah on August 7, 2012:

If God does not exist, then how is it that a banana fits so perfectly in this banana slicer? CHECKMATE, ATHEISTS!

Just Okay By IWonder  on August 21, 2012:

I would rate this product as just okay. It’s kind of cheaply made. But it works better than the hammer I’ve been using to slice my bananas.

Confusing  By Q-Tip  on September 11, 2012:

There is no way to tell if this is a standard or metric banana slicer. Additional markings on it would help greatly.

Great, but… By Gi Nance on July 11, 2016:

There needs to be a disclaimer: Does not work on banana yogurt.

Obviously, these reviews are not truthful reviews as they are meant to be funny. However, not everything we see on the internet will be obvious if it is not true. Thanks to the internet, rumors spread faster than ever before and once a rumor starts, it’s hard to set the story straight. That’s where Snopes.com comes in. Snopes.com is a website covering urban legends, internet rumors, email forwards, and other stories of questionable origin. It is a great resource for validating and debunking rumors, and it receives 300,000 visits a day. It’s creator, David Mikkelson sets the stories straight by researching them more online, tracking people down by email or phone, or by tracing images online.

One rumor that I had heard about that I decided to investigate further on Snopes.com was that a teenager was shot dead playing Pokemon Go after trespassing while truing to catch a rare Pokemon. The teenager apparently couldn’t get close enough to the Pokemon without trespassing, so he walked into an enclosed back porch of a neighbor’s house. He allegedly awakened the homeowner, a widow living on her own, who panicked and shot the teen twice.

Snopes.com determined that this story did not happen, and found that the fake story originated with notorious fake news outlet National Report. It then gained popularity via TheNoChill, an entertainment website. With the release of Pokemon Go, there have been other fabricated news stories as well. There was another rumor circulating that a Pokemon Go player caused a serious traffic accident, another where a teen stabbed his brother to death because he thought the boy deleted his app, and another saying that a teen wandered into a bad neighborhood and was stabbed while playing. All of these stories were also determined by Snopes.com to be false.

To end this unit, Professor Gernsbacher gave a lecture on judgment and decision making on the internet. She states that little to no evidence suggests that our judgment and decision making about information on the internet differs from our judgment and decision making about information not on the internet. Both online and offline, we use what are known as heuristics, which are cognitive shortcuts or mental rules of thumb to guide our judgment and decision making. According to professor Gernsbacher there are three fundamental types of judgment and decision making heuristics: the representativeness heuristic, the availability heuristic, and the anchoring and adjustment heuristic.

The representativeness heuristic is used when making judgments about the probability of an event under uncertainty. An example of this on the internet where this is used is how many people choose whether or not to buy something based on its star rating. However, they often fail to look at how many reviews contributed to those stars. A product with 100 4.5 star ratings is probably better than a product with one 5 star rating, because more people have reviewed it and consistently given it a good review, while the 5 star rating on the other product is just one person’s opinion.

The availability heuristic refers to the salience of an idea or an event. If an idea or event is salient to us, it’s more available in our minds, and we tend to overestimate how likely it is to occur. An example of this on the internet is when a person sees a post on social media of people going on vacation or drinking, and as a result thinks that more people are doing these things than in reality. Another example is when you see a negative review of a product, and as a result you think you have an increased chance of having a similar experience with the product.

Finally, the anchoring and adjustment heuristic is when we are biased by a starting number, considered an anchor, which affects our adjustment of other numbers. An example of this on the internet is bidding on Ebay. If you’re bidding on a product, and the base price is $10, you are likely to make the next bid $11. However, if the starting price for the same exact product is $5, you are not very likely to make your next bid $11. You are biased by the base price, which you are using as an anchor to determine how much to bid.

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