Is Best Answer Really the Best Answer? The Politeness Bias

MIS Quarterly 43(2), 579-600. (2019)

64 Pages Posted: 18 Nov 2021

See all articles by Shun-Yang Lee

Shun-Yang Lee

Northeastern University - Marketing Area

Huaxia Rui

University of Rochester - Simon Business School

Andrew B. Whinston

University of Texas at Austin - Department of Information, Risk and Operations Management

Date Written: August 9, 2018

Abstract

Popular knowledge management platforms such as community-based question answering sites (CQAs) and electronic networks of practice (ENPs) rely on accurate quality assessment of user contributed content to ensure effective knowledge creation and exchange. However, quality assessment is subjective by nature. Based on the politeness theory, we hypothesize that answers written more politely are more likely to be perceived as high quality answers by the question asker due to the low face threat. We first test our hypotheses through a random coefficient logit model with data obtained from Stack Exchange, a popular CQA platform. We then conduct a randomized experiment where we exogenously manipulate the politeness level of otherwise similar answers. Our analyses based on both the Stack Exchange dataset and the randomized experiment lend strong support to the existence of a politeness bias, which affects question askers’ subjective evaluation of answer quality. This study contributes to the literature in knowledge management, cognitive bias, and behavioral issues in information systems.

Keywords: knowledge management, community-based question answering, politeness theory, cognitive bias

Suggested Citation

Lee, Shun-Yang and Rui, Huaxia and Whinston, Andrew B., Is Best Answer Really the Best Answer? The Politeness Bias (August 9, 2018). MIS Quarterly 43(2), 579-600. (2019), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3954676

Shun-Yang Lee (Contact Author)

Northeastern University - Marketing Area ( email )

Boston, MA 02115
United States

Huaxia Rui

University of Rochester - Simon Business School ( email )

Rochester, NY 14627
United States

Andrew B. Whinston

University of Texas at Austin - Department of Information, Risk and Operations Management ( email )

CBA 5.202
Austin, TX 78712
United States
512-471-8879 (Phone)

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