My research centers on digital information, with a focus on online reviews. As a computational social scientist, I demonstrate in both experiments and scraped data sets of real reviews that online reviews are inherently flawed.

Long-term, I hope to work towards building an understanding of how platforms can provide the best suite of information to consumers, not just pointing out flaws with the status quo.

Methods I like to use (accidentally in order of preference):

  • Experiments (online, in the field, and lab)

  • Web-scraping

  • Econometrics

  • Simulation

I am proficient with R (including base R, tidyverse, and data.table), and have experience with Python, which I primarily use for web-scraping.


User-Generated Star Ratings Are Not Inherently Comparable

With Nick Reinholtz

User-generated ratings—often elicited and presented as “star ratings”—are among the most influential sources of information for consumers online, but their ability to lead consumers to make utility-maximizing decisions is uncertain. This paper identifies an inherent, structural problem with star ratings: Ratings are created for single alternatives in isolation. As a result, ratings are affected by differences in raters’ frames of reference, which are meaningless to consumers. Through nearly 1 million quarterly observations of 343,327 Airbnb listings, we demonstrate one consequence of this—ratings vary over time due to variation in context, not quality. We then experimentally demonstrate this structural misalignment, showing that objectively superior alternatives can receive lower ratings than inferior competitors when the superior alternative engenders higher expectations. In our experiments, future consumers demonstrate little awareness of this possibility, becoming less likely to make utility-maximizing decisions when shown these ratings. Five follow-up experiments address alternative explanations, provide process evidence, and contextualize our demonstration to the marketplace.

Link to paper

Code, data, and materials on OSF

Quality in Context: Evidence that Consumption Context Influences User-Generated Product Ratings.

With Nick Reinholtz

This paper investigates how unseen consumption contexts impact user-generated ratings by altering the experienced utility of products. Using over 22,000 ratings scraped from, I find that recent unseasonably cold weather at a reviewer's location leads them to rate cold-weather gear lower than during seasonable or warm temperatures. Other product ratings are unaffected by recent temperature for example, ratings for bicycles are not impacted by weather. This suggests that ratings do not communicate objective quality alone — they communicate experienced quality, which is contextually influenced. This has a meaningful impact on product rankings. In an experiment, customer search is impacted by the seemingly noisy effect of bad weather on ratings.

Link to paper

Code, data, and materials on OSF

The OSF folder contains the Python and R code used to scrape reviews from REI, merge them with weather data, and clean them. It is a bit messy, but I hope it can be of use to someone. Please cite the working paper if you use the data or code.

Is a (Money) Problem Shared, a Problem Halved? Investigating the Impact of Communication on Financial Anxiety

With Joe J. Gladstone and Emily N. Garbinsky

Money is a taboo subject in much of the Western world. But would encouraging consumers to more freely communicate about their money issues improve how they feel about their finances? We hypothesized that when people more frequently discuss and share their financial problems they will experience a reduction in the anxiety they feels towards their finances. We support this hypothesis using multiple data sources, including the application of automated textual analysis on posts scraped from two online forums (N = 343,786 and 561,061), two surveys (N = 101,844 and 711), and a longitudinal diary study (N = 533, Nobs = 2,519) where we experimentally manipulate how participants communicate about money. Results indicate that talking about money benefits consumers by reducing feelings of stress and anxiety towards their finances. The diary study explores potential process explanations, such as the impact of receiving amounts of specific advice and/or emotional support from communications partners. Supplementary analyses find preliminary evidence for a moderating role for financial hardship, with those in greatest hardship benefiting most from talking about their finances.

Please email me for paper

Link to code/data/materials on OSF