Expression Modalities: How Speaking Versus Writing Shapes Word of Mouth

  • Berger J
  • Rocklage M
  • Packard G
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Abstract

Consumers often communicate their attitudes and opinions with others, and such word of mouth has an important impact on what others think, buy, and do. But might the way consumers communicate their attitudes (i.e., through speaking or writing) shape the attitudes they express? And, as a result, the impact of what they share? While a great deal of research has begun to examine drivers of word of mouth, there has been less attention to how communication modality might shape sharing. Six studies, conducted in the laboratory and field, demonstrate that compared to speaking, writing leads consumers to express less emotional attitudes. The effect is driven by deliberation. Writing offers more time to deliberate about what to say, which reduces emotionality. The studies also demonstrate a downstream consequence of this effect: by shaping the attitudes expressed, the modality consumers communicate through can influence the impact of their communication. This work sheds light on word of mouth, effects of communication modality, and the role of language in communication.

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Berger, J., Rocklage, M. D., & Packard, G. (2021). Expression Modalities: How Speaking Versus Writing Shapes Word of Mouth. Journal of Consumer Research. https://doi.org/10.1093/jcr/ucab076

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