RateMyProfessors.com™: The Impact of Negative Online Professor Reviews on Student Judgement

  • Olena Orlova Kwantlen Polytechnic University
  • Daniel Friedlander Kwantlen Polytechnic University
  • Shelby Baertl Kwantlen Polytechnic University
  • Jordyn Steeves Kwantlen Polytechnic University
Keywords: Negative bias, Online reviews, Student attitudes, negatively valenced emotional expressions


Negatively-valenced emotional expressions (NVEE) are identified by the use of extreme language, emoticons, bold lettering, capitalization, and exclamation marks. When used in online review forums, NVEE are indicative of the severity of negative reviews, which may be perceived as less valid than negative reviews without NVEE. We sought to examine the effects of NVEE on student likelihood to take a professor’s class. We presented 51 university students with reviews based on RateMyProfessors.comTM. Students were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: positive reviews, negative reviews with NVEE, or negative reviews without NVEE. We found that students who viewed the positive reviews were significantly more likely to take the course than those who viewed negative reviews. Contrary to our prediction, the negative reviews with NVEE condition did not indicate greater likelihood of taking the course to the negative review condition without NVEE. However, qualitative analysis of student response to reviews showed that students were skeptical of reviews with NVEE, indicating that this research is relevant and useful for understanding what makes online reviews helpful.

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