“Tell me what you love and I’ll tell you who you are” goes the saying and as linguistics researchers at Stanford recently discovered, this might make for some uncomfortable truths.
Looking over 900,000 reviews on the popular restaurant review website Yelp, researchers found an interesting trend among positive postings: the more expensive the restaurant, the more reviews used sex-related words and imagery in their reviews (such as “orgasmic,” “seductive,” “hedonistic,” “sex,” “sinful,” “sultry”), and the cheaper the restaurant, the more the language used reflected that of drugs and addiction (“crack,” “addicting,” “fix,” “drug”).
Mentions of sex were associated with higher ratings, and the foodstuff that most likely triggered this type of language was dessert. “Mentioning dessert is a significant predictor of higher rating,” write Dan Jurafsky, Victor Chahuneau, Bryan R. Routledge and Noah A. Smith in Narrative Framing of Consumer Sentiment in Online Restaurant Reviews, which appeared last week in the peer-reviewed open access journal, First Monday.
Researchers found no difference between women and men in the use of sexual wording or imagery when describing dessert or other aspects of the dining experience.
“The fact that reviewers use more complex words and write longer reviews for more expensive restaurants suggests that reviewers are adopting the stance of the high socioâ€“economic class associated with expensive restaurants,” summarize researchers. “The use of this higher level of educational capital is thus another way that the review offers a chance for selfâ€“depiction, in this case a way for the reviewer to portray themselves as wellâ€“educated. By using the metaphor of sexuality and sensuality in these long reviews the reviewer further portrays themselves as a food lover attuned to the sensual and hedonic element of cuisine.”
Header image by Emiliano De Laurentiis.