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Find out if that review you're reading is fake

Find out if that review you're reading is fake
PHOTO COURTESY OF SHUTTERSTOCK

If you travel a lot, you know the hotel reviews you read online are not always accurate. It seems every high-end resort and seedy motel has at least one super fan who gives it a four- or five-star review.

No surprise, hotel owners sometimes post fake reviews. They're taking advantage of humans who, as it turns out, have a truth bias. Simply, we believe almost everything we read, according to researchers at Cornell University. It's like that joke, "I know it's true because I read it on the Internet."

Or, as Cornell researchers put it, "Human beings are lousy at identifying deceptive reviews." Fortunately, they developed a computer system that's 89.8% accurate in determining if a hotel review is legitimate or fake. (See photos below.)

Cornell's Review Skeptic (for hotel reviews only) was developed using reviews the professors and students wrote. Some of them were legitimate reviews, and some of them were fake. The computer system used keywords, and word pairings, to spot patterns in fake and real reviews.

Among their findings is that real reviewers tend to write more nouns, like bathroom or price, than fake reviewers. Deceptive reviewers tend to load up on verbs and descriptive phrases, like "business trip."

Note: The researchers found that people reading hotel reviews were either too trusting of the reviews they read, or too skeptical. Each group's ability to spot fakes was on par with random guessing.

Do you think you could identify a fake hotel review? Play along. In the box below, where it starts "Hotel and staff were excellent ...," do you think that's real or fake?

 

Review Skeptic

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