The IKEA Effect: We Love Things More That We Personally Built

the outside of an IKEA store viewed from the parking lot. A parking lot marker reading "A" can also be seen in the shot.
Image by Sam Greenhalgh / CC BY

By now, practically everyone has heard of IKEA, thanks to their increasingly expanding set of stores as well as Jonathan Coulton’s excellent tribute song to them. (“Billy the bookcase says hello” by the way.) And anyone who has any firsthand experience with IKEA knows that while they offer timeless modernist style at scandalous prices, it also comes with a time commitment.

Because you gotta put together the furniture yourself.

Well, unless you hire Task Rabbit or something to do it for you. IKEA has a partnership with them where you can pay for someone to assemble your purchases for you.

But maybe you don’t want to do that.

Because research has found that we love things more that we have personally built.

We Are Biased Towards What We’ve Made Ourselves

In a study published in 2012, a research team found that people consistently rated things that they had personally built as highly as those created by experts. Not only did they rank these items higher, they also expected others to rank their creations just as high. However, the researchers noted that this phenomenon was only present when the participants actually finished building the objects. In circumstances when they failed to complete the projects, this effect dissipated, and there was no “IKEA effect” observed.

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It’s a pretty interesting finding. Explains why it can be difficult for artists to accurately assess the value of their own work, especially if they haven’t figured out how to be properly self-critical.

This is actually why spending some time in a workshopping environment can be valuable for new creators; it helps them to develop the ability to critique their own work and hopefully be better able to edit it, even prior to handing it off to a skilled editor. (And will further make them more amenable to editorial decisions, rather than immediately becoming defensive and resistant to suggested improvements.)

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This post is part of an ongoing Poly Land feature called Psyched for the Weekend, in which I geek out with brief takes about some of my favorite psychological studies and concepts. For the entire series, please see this link.

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Books by Page Turner:

Dealing with Difficult Metamours

A Geek’s Guide to Unicorn Ranching

Poly Land: My Brutally Honest Adventures in Polyamory 

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