4/5 Stars

I wrote awhile ago about the context of reviews and how online reviews are sometimes not aligned with the context of the businesses being reviewed.

Recently I’ve been thinking about other types of reviews. Reviews for books/movies etc. Let’s stick to books to keep it simple.

When we review a book we are unconsciously biased to how people will perceive us. It has a lot to do with social-desirability bias and our need to look good by others.

For example, if I read a book that everyone else in my social group likes I’m much more likely to give it a higher rating than I would have just based on the fact that I want to conform with the group.

Of course this isn’t universally true, there are people who will actively fight this bias. Perhaps going to the other extreme and rating the book extremely poorly if it didn’t live up to the expectations set by the group.

But it isn’t always that simple. Another example:

Let’s say I read a classic novel. I really like it. 5/5 it was great.

After that I decide to read a mainstream, page turning, thriller. Also I really enjoyed. 5/5.

Or wait, can it be? What will my peers think? I just rated a classic novel 5/5, I can’t possibly rate this mainstream thriller that I picked up at Costco a 5/5 as well. Better knock it down to a healthy 4 or even 3 out of 5.

Not caring what other people think of us is hard.

Trusting online reviews also hard.