I’ve got a friend that enjoys every movie he sees, without exception. Of the movies in IMDB’s bottom 100 by rating, he has likely seen 50 and would give them all stellar ratings. I’ve always assumed his praise for flicks like Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2 is a side effect of his positive outlook and happy demeanor.

But you know what they say about assumptions. After getting some fresh data from our Social Analytics team, I decided to put my assumption to the test.

Is there really a correlation between level of happiness and average product rating?

The findings that prompted this exploration were fascinating by themselves. Our Social Analytics team had analyzed millions of data points flowing through our platform, and had sent me a ranking of 84 countries by the average score of their aggregated product ratings. I was curious about things like: Why did Moldovans, Georgians and Latvians (the top three by average rating) review products much more positively than Thais, Iranians and Ukrainians (the bottom three in the same ranking)?

As any philosopher or flower child will tell you, happiness is an amorphous concept without a universally-accepted definition.  But I needed a proxy measure for happiness that I could slice up by country, and Gallup’s Global Wellbeing Survey fit the bill (you can download the survey here). The survey ranks countries based on the percent of the population that is “thriving.” Here’s how Gallup gets that number:

Gallup measures life satisfaction by asking respondents to rate their present and future lives on a ‘ladder’ scale with steps numbered from 0 to 10, where ‘0’ indicates the worst possible life and ‘10’ the best possible life. Individuals who rate their current lives a ‘7’ or higher and their future an ‘8’ or higher are considered thriving.

The next step was to match Gallup’s data to ours. I did this for every country in our ratings analysis, and sent it off to Social Analytics to determine whether the two numbers, average rating and percentage of population thriving, were correlated.

While I was waiting for the results, I glanced at the thriving percentage for the top ten countries ranked by rating.

Thriving vs Reviews Rank In other words, only 6% of the Bulgarian population is thriving, but they rank in the top ten for average rating. Only three of the countries in the top ten had populations that are mostly thriving. When the analysis came back from Social Analytics, I can’t say I was surprised, after looking at the anecdotal evidence of the top ten. “Basically you have no correlation whatsoever (around .13 to .15),” read the email.

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If it’s not overall happiness (or wellbeing) that correlates to how countries rate products in the aggregate, what is it? The short answer is we don’t know yet; we haven’t conducted a deep-dive analysis on this particular question. For now, I’ll just have to chalk up my friend’s saccharine-sweet movie reviews to a variable I haven’t identified yet, or maybe just terrible taste. However, in an upcoming report, we’re answering questions like:

  • How has consumer use and contribution of user-generated content (UGC) changed over time?
  • How do consumers interact with UGC by industry?
  • On which days of the week do we see the biggest spikes in UGC contribution?
  • Which gender leaves more positive reviews?
  • Which industry gets the most positive reviews?
  • What trends are we seeing in the text of reviews?

On August 30th, we’ll be revealing some of our most interesting and actionable findings in a free webinar. To register, just click below.

Customer Intelligence
  • http://blog.bazaarvoice.com Ian Greenleigh

    It totally makes sense, but I don’t think the data supports that. If it did, we’d still see a negative correlation between scores. 

  • Gill M

    In my opinion, and its only my opinion, as you have stated already that no one seems to know.   I think its quite possible that the happier a person is, the less impressed they are.  

    You see, if you’re already happy, then the emotional change from happy to happier is probably not so easy to spot.   However, if you are lets say, not quite so happy and in fact miserable, then the emotional jump to being impressed and happy may be easier to detect.  If someone is sad and then they are happy, the change is way more apparent to everyone as well as themselves than that of someone who is already happy and becomes slightly happier.   I hope this makes sense.  I just think that sometimes, people who aren’t quite so thriving may be easier to impress…… Well maybe not even easier to impress, its just that the emotional jump is way more visible to them.

    Great post by the way, food for thought.