Judging the Wrongness of Firms in Social Media Firestorms: The Heuristic and Systematic Information Processing Perspective

Tommy Chan*, Zach Lee, Dimitra Skoumpopoulou, Freddy Situmeang

*Corresponding author for this work

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Social media firestorms pose a significant challenge for firms in the digital age. Tackling firestorms is difficult because the judgments and responses from social media users are influenced by not only the nature of the transgressions but also by the reactions and opinions of other social media users. Drawing on the heuristic-systematic information processing model, we propose a research model to explain the effects of social impact (the heuristic mode) and argument quality and moral intensity (the systematic mode) on perceptions of firm wrongness (the judgment outcome) as well as the effects of perceptions of firm wrongness on vindictive complaining and patronage reduction. We adopted a mixed methods approach in our investigation, including a survey, an experiment, and a focus group study. Our findings show that the heuristic and systematic modes of information processing exert both direct and interaction effects on individuals’ judgment. Specifically, the heuristic mode of information processing dominates overall and also biases the systematic mode. Our study advances the literature by offering an alternative explanation for the emergence of social media firestorms and identifying a novel context in which the heuristic mode dominates in dual information processing. It also sheds light on the formulation of response strategies to mitigate the adverse impacts resulting from social media firestorms. We conclude our paper with limitations and future research directions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)463-500
Number of pages38
JournalJournal of the Association for Information Systems
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2 Mar 2024

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