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Traumatic Dining Reviews

February 27, 2015

Analysis of bad restaurant reviews in Yelp reveals that dining can be as much about human interactions as food.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Traumatic dining experiences. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Communication used to be mostly private and fleeting. But now, much of what we say is preserved online. That opens up all sorts of possibilities for linguist and computer scientist Dan Jurafsky at Stanford University. At the Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, he discussed his analysis of bad restaurant reviews posted on Yelp, the online ratings service. While good reviews say things like “I love the appetizers here!”, bad reviews are past tense, use “we” instead of “I”, and rarely mention food.

JURAFSKY (Stanford University):

And it turns out this exact language: the past tense, lots of mentions of first person plurals, terrible words, like terrible and awful, characterize a particular linguistic genre, and it’s the genre of people who have been traumatized.

HIRSHON:

The analysis can provide insight into how people process both good and bad experiences, I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.