Narrative framing of consumer sentiment in online restaurant reviews

  • Dan Jurafsky Stanford University
  • Victor Chahuneau Carnegie Mellon University
  • Bryan R. Routledge Carnegie Mellon University
  • Noah A. Smith Carnegie Mellon University


The vast increase in online expressions of consumer sentiment offers a powerful new tool for studying consumer attitudes. To explore the narratives that consumers use to frame positive and negative sentiment online, we computationally investigate linguistic structure in 900,000 online restaurant reviews. Negative reviews, especially in expensive restaurants, were more likely to use features previously associated with narratives of trauma: negative emotional vocabulary, a focus on the past actions of third person actors such as waiters, and increased use of references to “we” and “us”, suggesting that negative reviews function as a means of coping with service–related trauma. Positive reviews also employed framings contextualized by expense: inexpensive restaurant reviews use the language of addiction to frame the reviewer as craving fatty or starchy foods. Positive reviews of expensive restaurants were long narratives using long words emphasizing the reviewer’s linguistic capital and also focusing on sensory pleasure. Our results demonstrate that portraying the self, whether as well–educated, as a victim, or even as addicted to chocolate, is a key function of reviews and suggests the important role of online reviews in exploring social psychological variables.

Author Biographies

Dan Jurafsky, Stanford University
Professor of Linguistics and Professor by courtesy of Computer Science, Stanford University
Victor Chahuneau, Carnegie Mellon University
Graduate Student, Language Technologies Institute
Bryan R. Routledge, Carnegie Mellon University
Associate Professor, Tepper School of Business,
Noah A. Smith, Carnegie Mellon University
Associate Professor, Language Technologies Institute
How to Cite
Jurafsky, D., Chahuneau, V., Routledge, B. R., & Smith, N. A. (2014). Narrative framing of consumer sentiment in online restaurant reviews. First Monday, 19(4).