image of Psychophysiological effects of evaluative language use on Twitter complaints and compliments



This article explores the role of evaluative language in the identification of emotions in–and psychophysiological responses to–Twitter complaints and compliments by the readers of these messages. Three hypotheses were tested in this research. First, in line with recent experimental work in French, we expected the presence of negative evaluative language in complaints to increase perceived dissatisfaction, impoliteness, and offensiveness by the reader. Second, assuming the negativity bias hypothesis, stronger psychophysiological responses should be found in complaints compared to compliments. Third, readers’ psychophysiological responses should be stronger for complaints and compliments including evaluative language. To test these hypotheses, we used a reading task involving cardiovascular reactivity measurements and a questionnaire. We found that perceived customer dissatisfaction, impoliteness and offensiveness were higher in complaints with vs. without evaluative language. We did not find an effect of the negativity bias on cardiovascular reactivity. Rather, compliments with evaluative language elicited larger cardiac slowing compared to complaints (with or without evaluative language) and compliments without evaluative language. As the stimuli is our study concern a railway company (which is mostly the target of criticism and complaints on Twitter), participants may have reacted more to the sort of feedback they would not expect the company to receive. Future research will be necessary to establish whether our findings still hold in the case of companies that achieve a better balance between negative and positive feedback.

Available under the CC BY 4.0 license.

Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...



  1. Barsade, Sigal G.
    2002 “The ripple effect: Emotional contagion and its influence on group behavior.” Administrative Science Quarterly(): –. 10.2307/3094912
    https://doi.org/10.2307/3094912 [Google Scholar]
  2. Baumeister, Roy F., Ellen Bratslavsky, Catrin Finkenauer, and Kathleen D. Vohs
    2001 “Bad is stronger than good.” Review of General Psychology(): –. 10.1037/1089‑2680.5.4.323
    https://doi.org/10.1037/1089-2680.5.4.323 [Google Scholar]
  3. Berger, Jonah
    2013 “Beyond viral: Interpersonal communication in the Internet age.” Psychological Inquiry(): –. 10.1080/1047840X.2013.842203
    https://doi.org/10.1080/1047840X.2013.842203 [Google Scholar]
  4. Bianchin, Marta, and Alessandro Angrilli
    2012 “Gender differences in emotional responses: A psychophysiological study.” Physiology and Behavior(): –. 10.1016/j.physbeh.2011.10.031
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.physbeh.2011.10.031 [Google Scholar]
  5. Brassen, Stefanie, Matthias Gamer, Jan Peters, Sebastian Gluth, and Christian Buchel
    2012 “Don’t look back in anger! Responsiveness to missed chances in successful and nonsuccessful aging.” Science(): –. 10.1126/science.1217516
    https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1217516 [Google Scholar]
  6. Brown, Penelope, and Stephen C. Levinson
    1987Politeness: Some Universals in Language Usage. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 10.1017/CBO9780511813085
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511813085 [Google Scholar]
  7. Campbell, Jana, and Ulrike Ehlert
    2012 “Acute psychosocial stress: Does the emotional stress response correspond with physiological responses?” Psychoneuroendocrinology(): –. 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2011.12.010
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2011.12.010 [Google Scholar]
  8. Cenni, Irene, and Patrick Goethals
    2017 “Negative hotel reviews on TripAdvisor: A cross-linguistic analysis.” Discourse, Context & Media: –. 10.1016/j.dcm.2017.01.004
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dcm.2017.01.004 [Google Scholar]
  9. Cenni, Irene, and Camilla Vásquez
    2022 “‘Jerry was a terrific host!’ ‘You were a brilliant guest!’: Reciprocal compliments on Airbnb.” Pragmatics and Society(): –. 10.1075/ps.20059.cen
    https://doi.org/10.1075/ps.20059.cen [Google Scholar]
  10. Codispoti, Maurizio, Paola Surcinelli, and Bruno Baldaro
    2008 “Watching emotional movies: Affective reactions and gender differences.” International Journal of Psychophysiology(): –. 10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2008.03.004
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2008.03.004 [Google Scholar]
  11. Decock, Sofie
    2022 “Discursive approaches to webcare: A closer look at apologies, conversational humanvoice, legitimation, and emotion regulation.” Discourse, Context &Media, . 10.1016/j.dcm.2021.100575
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dcm.2021.100575 [Google Scholar]
  12. Decock, Sofie, and Ilse Depraetere
    2018 “(In)directness and complaints: A reassessment.” Journal of Pragmatics: –. 10.1016/j.pragma.2018.04.010
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2018.04.010 [Google Scholar]
  13. Decock, Sofie, Bernard De Clerck, Chloé Lybaert, and Koen Plevoets
    2021 “Testing the various guises of Conversational Human Voice: The impact of formality and personalization on customer outcomes in online complaint management.” Journal of Internet Commerce(): –. 10.1080/15332861.2020.1848060
    https://doi.org/10.1080/15332861.2020.1848060 [Google Scholar]
  14. Depraetere, Ilse, Sofie Decock, and Nicolas Ruytenbeek
    2021 “Linguistic (in)directness in Twitter complaints: A contrastive analysis of railway complaint interactions.” Journal of Pragmatics: –. 10.1016/j.pragma.2020.09.026
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2020.09.026 [Google Scholar]
  15. Epel, Elissa S., Alexandra D. Crosswell, Stefanie E. Mayer, Aric A. Prather, George M. Slavich, Eli Puterman, and Wendy B. Mendes
    2018 “More than a feeling: A unified view of stress measurement for population science.” Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology: –. 10.1016/j.yfrne.2018.03.001
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.yfrne.2018.03.001 [Google Scholar]
  16. Felbermayr, Armin, and Alexandros Nanopoulos
    2016 “The role of emotions for the perceived usefulness in online customer reviews.” Journal of Interactive Marketing(): –. 10.1016/j.intmar.2016.05.004
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.intmar.2016.05.004 [Google Scholar]
  17. Ferrara, Emilio, and Zeyao Yang
    2015 “Measuring emotional contagion in social media.” PloS one(), e0142390. 10.1371/journal.pone.0142390
    https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0142390 [Google Scholar]
  18. Fox, Alexa K., George D. Deitz, Marla B. Royne, and Joseph D. Fox
    2018 “The face of contagion: Consumer response to service failure depiction in online reviews.” European Journal of Marketing(): –. 10.1108/EJM‑12‑2016‑0887
    https://doi.org/10.1108/EJM-12-2016-0887 [Google Scholar]
  19. Franzke, Aline S., Anja Bechmann, Michael Zimmer, Charles M. Ess, and the Association of Internet Researchers
    2020 “Internet research: Ethical guidelines 3.0.” https://aoir.org/reports/ethics3.pdf (accessed3 March 2021).
  20. Garfinkel, Sarah N., and Hugo D. Critchley
    2016 “Threat and the body: How the heart supports fear processing.” Trends in Cognitive Sciences(): –. 10.1016/j.tics.2015.10.005
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2015.10.005 [Google Scholar]
  21. Goldenberg, Amit, and James J. Gross
    2020 “Digital emotion contagion.” Trends in Cognitive Sciences(): –. 10.1016/j.tics.2020.01.009
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2020.01.009 [Google Scholar]
  22. Gray, Marcus A., Felix D. Beacher, Ludovico Minati, Yoko Nagai, Andrew H. Kemp, Neil A. Harrison, and Hugo D. Critchley
    2012 “Emotional appraisal is influenced by cardiac afferent information.” Emotion(): –. 10.1037/a0025083
    https://doi.org/10.1037/a0025083 [Google Scholar]
  23. Gunther Moor, Bregtje, Linda van Leijenhorst, Serge A. R. B. Rombouts, Eveline A. Crone, and Mauritz W. Van der Molen
    2010 “Do you like me? Neural correlates of social evaluation and developmental trajectories.” Social Neuroscience(): –. 10.1080/17470910903526155
    https://doi.org/10.1080/17470910903526155 [Google Scholar]
  24. Guo, Junpeng, Xiaopan Wang, and Yi Wu
    2020 “Positive emotion bias: Role of emotional content from online customer reviews in purchase decisions.” Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, . 10.1016/j.jretconser.2019.101891
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jretconser.2019.101891 [Google Scholar]
  25. Hatfield, Elaine, John T. Cacioppo, and Richard L. Rapson
    1994Emotional Contagion. New York: Cambridge University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  26. Holmqvist, Jonas, and Christian Grönroos
    2012 “How does language matter for services? Challenges and propositions for service research.” Journal of Service Research(): –. 10.1177/1094670512441997
    https://doi.org/10.1177/1094670512441997 [Google Scholar]
  27. Holmqvist, Jonas, Yves Van Vaerenbergh, Renaud Lunardo, and Micael Dahlén
    2019 “The language backfire effect: How frontline employees decrease customer satisfaction through language use.” Journal of Retailing(): –. 10.1016/j.jretai.2019.03.004
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jretai.2019.03.004 [Google Scholar]
  28. Ito, Tiffany A., Jeff T. Larsen, N. Kyle Smith, and John T. Cacioppo
    1998 “Negative information weighs more heavily on the brain: The negativity bias in evaluative categorizations.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology(): –. 10.1037/0022‑3514.75.4.887
    https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.75.4.887 [Google Scholar]
  29. Jennings, J. Richard
    1986 “Do cardiovascular changes indicate energetic support of information processing?” InEnergetics and Human Information Processing, ed. byG. M. Hockey, Anthony W. K. Gaillard, and Michael G. H. Coles, –. Dordrecht: Springer. 10.1007/978‑94‑009‑4448‑0_13
    https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-009-4448-0_13 [Google Scholar]
  30. Kuznetsova, Alexandra, Per B. Brockhoff, and Rune H. B. Christensen
    2017 “lmerTest package: Tests in linear mixed effects models.” Journal of Statistical Software(): –. 10.18637/jss.v082.i13
    https://doi.org/10.18637/jss.v082.i13 [Google Scholar]
  31. Labouvie-Vief, Gisela, Mark A. Lumley, Elizabeth Jain, and Hillary Heinze
    2003 “Age and gender differences in cardiac reactivity and subjective emotion responses to emotional autobiographical memories.” Emotion(): –. 10.1037/1528‑3542.3.2.115
    https://doi.org/10.1037/1528-3542.3.2.115 [Google Scholar]
  32. Liebrecht, Christine, Lettica Hustinx, and Margot van Mulken
    2019 “The relative power of negativity: The influence of language intensity on perceived strength.” Journal of Language and Social Psychology(): –. 10.1177/0261927X18808562
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0261927X18808562 [Google Scholar]
  33. Ludwig, Stephan, Ko de Ruyter, Mike Friedman, Elisabeth C. Brüggen, Martin Wetzels, and Gerard Pfann
    2013 “More than words: The influence of affective content and linguistic style matches in online reviews on conversion rates.” Journal of Marketing(): –. 10.1509/jm.11.0560
    https://doi.org/10.1509/jm.11.0560 [Google Scholar]
  34. Lutzky, Ursula
    2021The Discourse of Customer Service Tweets. London: Bloomsbury. 10.5040/9781350090712
    https://doi.org/10.5040/9781350090712 [Google Scholar]
  35. Lybaert, Chloé, Bernard De Clerck, Koen Plevoets, Tess Loete, and Sofie Depovere
    2020 “De impact van taal en gender in negatieve reviews: Een experimentele studie naar gepercipieerde geloofwaardigheid en consumentengedrag.” [The impact of language and gender in negative reviews: An experimental study of perceived trustworthiness and consumer behavior]. Tijdschrift van Taalbeheersing(): –. 10.5117/TVT2020.1.003.LYBA
    https://doi.org/10.5117/TVT2020.1.003.LYBA [Google Scholar]
  36. Meinl, Marja E.
    2010 “Electronic complaints: An empirical study on British English and German complaints on eBay.” PhD dissertation, University of Bonn.
  37. Mendes, Wendy B., Jim Blascovich, Sarah B. Hunter, Brian Lickel, and John T. Jost
    2007 “Threatened bythe unexpected: Physiological responses during social interactions with expectancy-violating partners.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology(): –. 10.1037/0022‑3514.92.4.698
    https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.92.4.698 [Google Scholar]
  38. Oliveira-Silva, Patrícia, and Oscar F. Gonçalves
    2011 “Responding empathically: A question of heart, not a question of skin.” Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback(): –. 10.1007/s10484‑011‑9161‑2
    https://doi.org/10.1007/s10484-011-9161-2 [Google Scholar]
  39. Ott, Larissa, and Petra Theunissen
    2015 “Reputations at risk: Engagement during social media crises.” Public Relations Review(): –. 10.1016/j.pubrev.2014.10.015
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pubrev.2014.10.015 [Google Scholar]
  40. Placencia, María E., and Zohreh R. Eslami
    (eds) 2020Complimenting Behaviour and (Self-) Praise acrossSocial Media: New Contexts and New Insights. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 10.1075/pbns.313
    https://doi.org/10.1075/pbns.313 [Google Scholar]
  41. Placencia, María E., and Amanda Lower
    2017 “Compliments and compliment responses.” InPragmatics of Social Media, ed. byChristian Hoffmann, and Wolfram Bublitz, –. Berlin: De Gruyter. 10.1515/9783110431070‑023
    https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110431070-023 [Google Scholar]
  42. Porges, Stephen W.
    2006 “Emotion: An evolutionary by-product of the neural regulation of the autonomic nervous system.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences(): –. 10.1111/j.1749‑6632.1997.tb51913.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1749-6632.1997.tb51913.x [Google Scholar]
  43. Prkachin, Kenneth M., Rhonda M. Williams-Avery, Caroline Zwaal, and David E. Mills
    1999 “Cardiovascular changes during induced emotion: An application of Lang’s theory of emotional imagery.” Journal of Psychosomatic Research(): –. 10.1016/S0022‑3999(99)00036‑7
    https://doi.org/10.1016/S0022-3999(99)00036-7 [Google Scholar]
  44. Psychology Software Tools, Inc.
    Psychology Software Tools, Inc. 2016 “E-Prime” (Version 3.0) [Computer software]. https://support.pstnet.com (accessed 20 August 2021).
  45. Raizen, Adina, Nikos Vergis, and Kiel Christianson
    2015 “Using eye-tracking to examine the reading of texts containing taboo words.” InInterdisciplinary Perspectives on Im/politeness, ed. byMarina Terkourafi, and Staci Defibaugh, –. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 10.1075/aals.14.11rai
    https://doi.org/10.1075/aals.14.11rai [Google Scholar]
  46. Rattel, Julina A., Iris B. Mauss, Michael Liedlgruber, and Frank H. Wilhelm
    2020 “Sex differences in emotional concordance.” Biological Psychology, 107845. 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2020.107845
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsycho.2020.107845 [Google Scholar]
  47. R Core Team
    R Core Team 2019R: A Language and Environment for Statistical Computing. Vienna: R Foundation for Statistical Computing. https://www.r-project.org.
    [Google Scholar]
  48. Ren, Fuji, and Changqin Quan
    2012 “Linguistic-based emotion analysis and recognition for measuring consumer satisfaction: An application of affective computing.” Information Technology and Management(): –. 10.1007/s10799‑012‑0138‑5
    https://doi.org/10.1007/s10799-012-0138-5 [Google Scholar]
  49. Rozin, Paul, and Edward B. Royzman
    2001 “Bias, negativity dominance, and contagion.” Personality and Social Psychology Review(): –. 10.1207/S15327957PSPR0504_2
    https://doi.org/10.1207/S15327957PSPR0504_2 [Google Scholar]
  50. Ruytenbeek, Nicolas, Sofie Decock, and Ilse Depraetere
    2023a “Experiments into the influence of linguistic (in)directness on perceived face-threat in Twitter complaints.” Journal of Politeness Research(): –. 10.1515/pr‑2019‑0042
    https://doi.org/10.1515/pr-2019-0042 [Google Scholar]
  51. 2023b “The impact of linguistic choices and (para-) linguistic markers on the perception of Twitter complaints by other customers: An experimental approach.” Journal of Politeness Research(): –. 10.1515/pr‑2021‑0031
    https://doi.org/10.1515/pr-2021-0031 [Google Scholar]
  52. Ruytenbeek, Nicolas, Marie Verschraegen, and Sofie Decock
    2021 “Exploring the impact of platforms’ affordances on the expression of negativity in online negative hotel reviews.” Journal of Pragmatics: –. 10.1016/j.pragma.2021.10.004
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2021.10.004 [Google Scholar]
  53. Schellekens, Gaby A. C., Peeter W. J. Verlegh, and Ale Smidts
    2012 “Linguistic biases and persuasion in communication about objects.” Journal of Language and Social Psychology(): –. 10.1177/0261927X12466083
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0261927X12466083 [Google Scholar]
  54. Schoenewolf, Gerald
    1990 “Emotional contagion: Behavioral induction in individuals and groups.” Modern Psychoanalysis: –.
    [Google Scholar]
  55. Shiota, Michelle N., Samantha L. Neufeld, Wan H. Yeung, Stephanie E. Moser, and Elaine F. Perea
    2011 “Feeling good: autonomic nervous system responding in five positive emotions.” Emotion(): –. 10.1037/a0024278
    https://doi.org/10.1037/a0024278 [Google Scholar]
  56. Sigona, Annalise
    2015 “Impression management on Facebook and Twitter: Where are people more likely to share positivity or negativity with their audiences?” Young Scholars In Writing: –.
    [Google Scholar]
  57. Sjak-Shie, Elio E.
    2022 PhysioData Toolbox (Version 0.6.3) [Computer software]. Retrieved fromhttps://PhysioDataToolbox.leidenuniv.nl
  58. Smith, Andrew N., Eileen Fischer, and Chen Yongjian
    2012 “How does brand-related user-generated content differ across YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter?” Journal of Interactive Marketing(): –. 10.1016/j.intmar.2012.01.002
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.intmar.2012.01.002 [Google Scholar]
  59. Stoet, Gijsbert
    2010 “PsyToolkit – A software package for programming psychological experiments using Linux.” Behavior Research Methods(): –. 10.3758/BRM.42.4.1096
    https://doi.org/10.3758/BRM.42.4.1096 [Google Scholar]
  60. 2017 “PsyToolkit: A novel web-based method for running online questionnaires and reaction-time experiments.” Teaching of Psychology(): –. 10.1177/0098628316677643
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0098628316677643 [Google Scholar]
  61. Torre, Jared B., and Matthew D. Lieberman
    2018 “Putting feelings into words: Affect labeling as implicit emotion regulation.” Emotion Review(): –. 10.1177/1754073917742706
    https://doi.org/10.1177/1754073917742706 [Google Scholar]
  62. Trosborg, Anna
    1995Interlanguage Pragmatics: Requests, Complaints and Apologies. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. 10.1515/9783110885286
    https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110885286 [Google Scholar]
  63. Van der Veen, Frederik M., Anastasiya Burdzina, and Sandra J. E. Langeslag
    2019 “Don’t you want me, baby? Cardiac and electrocortical concomitants of romantic interest and rejection.” Biological Psychology, 107707. 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2019.05.007
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsycho.2019.05.007 [Google Scholar]
  64. Van der Veen, Frederik M., Maurits W. van der Molen, Priya P. Sahibdin, and Ingmar Franken
    2014 “The heart-break of social rejection versus the brain wave of social acceptance.” Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience(): –. 10.1093/scan/nst120
    https://doi.org/10.1093/scan/nst120 [Google Scholar]
  65. Van der Veen, Frederik M., Melle J. W. van der Molen, Maurits W. van der Molen, and Ingmar H. A. Franken
    2016 “Thumbs up or thumbs down? Effects of neuroticism and depressive symptoms on psychophysiological responses to social evaluation in healthy students.” Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience: –. 10.3758/s13415‑016‑0435‑2
    https://doi.org/10.3758/s13415-016-0435-2 [Google Scholar]
  66. Vásquez, Camilla
    2011 “Complaints online: The case of TripAdvisor.” Journal of Pragmatics: –. 10.1016/j.pragma.2010.11.007
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2010.11.007 [Google Scholar]
  67. 2014The Discourse of Online Consumer Reviews. London: Bloomsbury. 10.5040/9781472593535
    https://doi.org/10.5040/9781472593535 [Google Scholar]
  68. Vermeulen, Ivar E., and Daphne Seegers
    2009 “Tried and tested: The impact of online hotel reviews on consumer consideration.” Tourism Management(): –. 10.1016/j.tourman.2008.04.008
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tourman.2008.04.008 [Google Scholar]
  69. Von Helversen, Bettina, Katarzyna Abramczuk, Wiesław Kopeć, and Radoslaw Nielek
    2018 “Influence of consumer reviews on online purchasing decisions in older and younger adults.” Decision Support Systems: –. 10.1016/j.dss.2018.05.006
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dss.2018.05.006 [Google Scholar]
  70. Widdershoven, Svenja
    2019 “Disentangling a web of emotions: The pervasiveness of emotional contagion on social media in service settings.” PhD dissertation, Radboud University of Nijmegen.
  71. Widdershoven, Svenja, Mark Pluymaekers, José Bloemer, Haithem Zourrig, and Paul Sinclair
    . In press. “Calming the storm: How non-negative messages from fellow consumers can dispel negativity in a social media firestorm.” International Journal of Business Communication.
    [Google Scholar]
  72. Yin, Dezhi, Samuel D. Bond, and Han Zhang
    2014 “Anxious or angry? Effects of discrete emotions on the perceived helpfulness of online reviews.” MIS Quarterly(): –. 10.25300/MISQ/2014/38.2.10
    https://doi.org/10.25300/MISQ/2014/38.2.10 [Google Scholar]
  73. Zhuo, Jing-Schmidt
    2007 “Negativity bias in language: A cognitive-affective model of emotive intensifiers.” Cognitive Linguistics(): –. 10.1515/COG.2007.023
    https://doi.org/10.1515/COG.2007.023 [Google Scholar]

Data & Media loading...

  • Article Type: Research Article
Keywords: psychophysiology ; Twitter ; customer dissatisfaction ; complaints ; (im)politeness ; compliments
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error