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How to spot a fake Yelp review…See if you can

Brain Scan

As a follow up to my tweet yesterday:

Fascinating. Why your brain loves great stories…oxytocin and empathy

I was listening to an NPR TED Radio Hour Podcast which discussed cheating. One of the guests walked through an experiment where volunteers were given 2 hotel reviews. One review was genuine and one was a fake.

It turns out the majority of the volunteers couldn’t determine which review was the fake. The people who guessed correctly were no better than chance. My guess is that if you have ever actually written a review you might be able to spot the fake.

Here’s Review #1:
My husband and I stayed at the James Chicago Hotel for our anniversary. The place is fantastic. We were able to go shopping and the hotel is really lovely. The staff is very attentive and wonderful. Really, really beautiful rooms. We will definitely be back to Chicago and will sure be back to the James Chicago.

Here’s Review #2:
I have stayed at many hotels traveling for both business and pleasure and I can honestly say the rooms are modern and very comfortable. The shopping was about a mile away. Highly recommend it to both business travelers and couples

Take a moment and try to figure out which one is the fake.

I’m adding in filler to REALLY give you a chance. Give it a shot.



I was able to get this correct while listening to the podcast because I thought about the details I would put in a review. I was thinking from the writer’s perspective.

It turns out a liar will actually think in terms of the readers perspective. The reason this relates back to my tweet I quoted is because liars use a narrative. They include who and what happened in a timeline of events. “My husband and I”, “We went shopping”.  They insert themselves into the story and try to make themselves sound believable.

It’s no surprise as a reader we like the stories and want to believe them. Our brain is geared to reward and empathize with a narrative.
If you are writing an actual review you think more about the space. “It was a very large room.” “The shopping was about a mile away”. An honest review focuses on the specifics of WHAT you are reviewing and less on a narrative.

So next time you see an engaging and eloquent review of the new restaurant you might take it with a grain of salt and focus on reviews which talk less about themselves and more about the space and the food.

Based on that you’ve probably figured out review #1 was the fake

So how did you do? Have you seen an outrageous Yelp review you think is a fake? Let me know in the comments.

Reduce Prejudice and Gain Influence in Work Relationships

At Work

How would you reduce prejudice in the office?

  1. Educate people on the negative consequences of prejudice and how it affects others.
  2. Send out monthly newsletter on the importance of team building and being inclusive of people from all walks of life.
  3. Pair up diverse coworkers to work through a problem on a project.

It’s understandable if you picked the first 2 options because it’s the approach most people would take. “They are just being ignorant“, “if only they knew how they made that other person feel”, “if we just give them the information they need surely they have to see how detrimental their attitude is”.

The fact is these attitudes are deeply engrained in our thought processes, habits, and routines. More information isn’t going to counteract our behavior. Most of which we do without even thinking of consequences. The not so obvious answer is #3. You must change the behavior and the attitudes will follow. You may do it unknowingly any time you question in your mind whether you’re doing the right thing. The scenario goes something like this. We know helping people is good. It’s the right thing to do. If work forces me to interact with someone I have a preconceived stereotype about I have to reevaluate whether what I think is the truth.


Let’s take an imaginary coworker named Big Sam (BS for short). I can’t stand what a slob BS is. His shirts never tucked in.  When he’s sitting at his desk his butt crack hangs out. He is a heavy breather and is always out of breath. It’s all BS. I haven’t worked with the guy but he already gets on my nerves.

Now let’s say you’re a web designer and a new exciting project comes up to redesign your companies .com site. The company wants to update it to the latest web tech, social sharing and behavioral motivation patterns. You’ll do anything to get on that project. BS will also stop at nothing to get on this project. BS is a front end developer and loves working with the latest frameworks and showing off his technical chops. Oh great, this guy going to be a total pain in my ass, but maybe their is something to this guy since he was put on such a high profile project.

You both get assigned the project so you decide to go have a BS conversation and see what this guy is all about. You get into the conversation and ask BS about some of his experience, discuss some of each other’s thoughts and come away thinking “Man this guy has some great ideas I would have never thought of”

That’s it. That moment was when our actions started to influence our behavior. We feel a little pull. A little question pops into our head. Our beliefs begin to realign and we start thinking “Man this guy knows what he’s doing.” Our attitude begins to change as we have more and more conversations. We slowly begin to understand BS and see him in a new light.

Marketers use the same strategies

Have you seen Coke’s new “Share-a-Coke” campaign? They are using the same principles to change your attitude towards their cola. Sharing is a very positive and rewarding activity. The fact that we’re sharing a Coke transfers that positivity to the Coke brand. It’s something that would make any mother proud. We may not consciously think about it but there’s a part of us that likes the creative idea Coke came up with and allowed us to do something for a friend.

What you can do

Can you think of a time when your beliefs were challenged? In the comments share one action you could take today to start changing an ingrained behavior. It could be placing yourself in an uncomfortable situation, going for a walk after dinner, inviting a coworker to lunch, or sitting down for an hour to work on your side business.

Why we start with the best intentions but lose focus along the way


Did you make New Years resolutions this year? It’s February. Have you broken any of those resolutions? January 1st is a time of new beginnings. Time to reset the clock on a new year and become a new person. Hopes are high. Commitments are made. Then 3 weeks into January and you’ve already stopped going […]

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