You’re watching a new show and you’re episode two into a 12 part season when you start to wonder if it’s it worth your time. Or if it’s only you who thinks that guy’s hair looks like the lovechild of a loaf of bread and a waffle. So you head over to social media to read other’s reviews. But, could doing this change how you would feel if you’d not checked? And could it also change what you thought about it before? Maybe now you now can no longer see anything else but the loaf and waffle lovechild.

How much can other people influence the opinion you form and whether you bother to start/keep watching?

Modifiable memories

It’s fairly well known that if you witness a crime, your memory of the event is not a hard and fast copy and can be pliable to new or conflicting information. This was nicely shown by the Black Mirror episode, ‘Crocodile’. This episode focused on an insurance investigator using a device which allows the visualisation of people’s memory of events for insurance claims. When a witness describes a woman’s coat as ‘green’ the investigator corrects them to say that other people had described it as ‘yellow’. We then see the image of their memory change. The coat becomes yellow.

Witnessing a crime is a pretty different environment to sitting at home on your phone. But, you’re presumably already unsure about what you think of the show, or you’d be sat bingeing the entire thing. (Until your internal monologue develops an accent and you struggle to fight the urge to answer ‘yes, siree’ to every question anyone asks you). So, would this mean that you’re more likely to either keep watching or give up, based on what other people’s reviews say?

Social influence and attitude change

We know that social influence can be a powerful way to change attitudes. And there are a few things that might influence how much notice you take.

The elaboration likelihood model suggests is that we have two ways of processing information. You might read the content of the message (in this case, the review) and evaluate what you think based on this. Or you might just look at the surface details and just look at the overall star rating. Which route you rely on depends on how many resources you’ve got to spare, so whether or not you’re in a rush or if you’ve got lots of things distracting you.

Who is doing the review and how much do you care what they think?

How much attention you pay can also depend on who the reviewer is. If they’re someone you know or are similar to you, you are more likely to pay attention than if they’re very different. This is because we tend to think that people similar to us will have similar attitudes and opinions.

Yellow or Green?

Just as the witness in ‘Crocodile’ saw a different colour of something another person said, reading a review on social media might change your perception of something you’re watching. And it makes you wonder whether you’d come to the same conclusion, or if maybe we should give things a chance before we check in to see what other people think.

Want to read more?

If you’re interested in reading more about psychology and social media, you might want to take a look at my other post on all the different ways that biases are stopping people from translating likes into clicking on your website.

Or, if you fancy sinking your teeth into a bit of fiction: click here for a short story including a murder, a picnic, and a wannabe future pirate.