Four Stars by Naomi Kinsman

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I have to be honest, I hit a bit of a block when searching for something to write that connected with the number four.

And then, I googled quotes about the number four. Eureka!

First, a lesson relearned: When a mental path is blocked, try a window.

Second, I saw a number of posts and quotes that referenced four stars, which caused me to think about our star-filled world. We are constantly asked to rate movies, books, restaurants, and many other experiences, on a scale of one to five stars.

I nearly always give a rating of four stars.

Why four? Well, on the one hand, I'm inclined toward optimism. It takes quite a lot for me to decide something is worthy of dislike. On the other hand, I want to reserve that elusive five-star rating for the experiences that are truly over and above.

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We've all had the experience of having someone ask us to give them a five-star rating because if we don't, they will have their bonus docked, or they will receive some other dire consequence. We're all influenced when we see that a particular restaurant or book has received five-stars, but we don't consider that the stars are likely rather arbitrary. What influenced each person who rated the experience? Are people more likely to rate experiences that disappointed them, and if so, does this skew the data toward the negative? Or, are there many people like me, who have a knee-jerk four-star response?

Since I'm an optimist, I try to believe that with higher numbers, the responses are more accurate. Maybe a few outliers rated a podcast because they hated it, but hopefully, most of the people who chimed in responded thoughtfully.

I also think about my books, about the star averages on each title, and how important those ratings can feel to me. I wonder how arbitrary the numbers are, and what, if anything I should read into them.

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What tips the scales for you? What bumps a book, movie, podcast or restaurant into the five-star range? How much does a star average influence your willingness to try something new?


  1. When I can't stop thinking about the book/restaurant meal/movie...then I know the 4/5 stars are well deserved.

  2. Honestly, it's pretty rare that others' star ratings will keep me from trying something new--but what they SAY in their reviews will let me know if it's something I'll like...

  3. That's true for me, too, Holly. When someone has thoughtful comments--positive or negative--their feedback definitely helps me decide.


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