In word of mouth, consumers talk about their experiences with products and services with other consumers. These conversations are important sources of information for consumers. While word of mouth has fascinated researchers and practitioners for many years, little attention has been paid to the question of how consumers talk about products and brands, and whether and how this moderates the extent to which they influence other consumers. This dissertation fills this gap, and focuses on the language that consumers use when they describe their experiences. For example, if your brand new shirt lost its color after one or two washes, you could say to your friend “My shirt has faded,” or you could say “My shirt was of poor quality”. In the former case, you provide a very concrete description of what has happened. In the latter, you use more abstract wording, which generalizes this single experience to an overall impression of the shirt’s quality. This dissertation focuses on language abstraction, because abstractness is an important aspect of language, and it can be coded unambiguously and relatively easily. A series of experiments examined when and why consumers use abstract versus concrete language in word of mouth, and how these differences in language use affect the receiver of the word-of-mouth message. Among other things, the results show that consumers use more abstract language when they describe expriences that are in line with their prior opinions about a product, and that more abstract descriptions generally have a larger impact on other consumers.

Additional Metadata
Keywords consumer behavior, language, language abstraction, linguistic bias, marketing, social influence, talk, word of mouth
JEL Statistical Decision Theory; Operations Research (jel C44), Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting (jel M), Marketing (jel M31)
Promotor A. Smidts (Ale)
Publisher Erasmus University Rotterdam , Erasmus Research Institute of Management
Sponsor Rotterdam School of Management (RSM) Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) Dr. D. Smeesters Prof.dr. S.M.J. van Osselaer Prof.dr. D.H.J. Wigboldus Copromotor: P.W.J. Verlegh
ISBN 978-90-5892-252-6
Persistent URL
Series ERIM Ph.D. Series Research in Management
Schellekens, G.A.C. (2010, November 30). Language Abstraction in Word of Mouth (No. EPS-2010-218-MKT). ERIM Ph.D. Series Research in Management. Erasmus Research Institute of Management. Retrieved from