Have you ever spent a couple of hours working on a craft project — or a presentation for work — and then fallen in love with what you’ve accomplished? Do the colors you’ve picked for your PowerPoint background pop so beautifully that you just have to sit back and admire your own genius?
If so, get in line: You’re the latest person to fall victim to the Ikea Effect.
The name for this psychological phenomenon derives from the love millions of Americans display toward their self-assembled furniture (or, dare we say it, their badly self-assembled furniture) from the do-it-yourself store with the Scandinavian name.
Why You Love That Ikea Table, Even If It’s Crooked
Or perhaps you’ve made your first song, or computer, or baby, and you get the urge to show everyone you know.
We examine the underlying process behind the IKEA effect, which is defined as consumers’ willingness to pay more for self-created products than for identical products made by others, and explore the factors that influence both consumers’ willingness to engage in self-creation and the utility that they derive from such activities. We propose that creating products fulfills consumers’ psychological need to signal competence to themselves and to others, and that feelings of competence associated with self-created products lead to their increased valuation. We demonstrate that the feelings of competence that arise from assembling products mediate their increased value (Experiment 1), that affirming consumers’ sense of self decreases the value they derive from their creations (Experiment 2), and that threatening consumers’ sense of self increases their propensity to make things themselves (Experiments 3A and 3B).
Bolstering and restoring feelings of competence via the IKEA effect
Science Direct <- paywalling bastards, who has $30 USD per tax grant-funded article?
With respect to experiment 1, I believe there is a confounding factor in play. When I make music, I make exactly the sort of music I would want to listen to. All of the key aesthetic points that I’ve observed in my favorite music- intensity, emotional simplicity, psychodelia, wandering melodies, difficult musicianship- are present in every one of the songs I’ve composed to date. My guiding instinct is to write the way I think someone else should have written before me, and didn’t.
My brother is into carpentry. When he makes a desk, he will explain (often at length) that his design is the most optimized, or the most beautiful, or whatever. Sure, he’ll have ideas to improve it, but in his mind he’s fixing the problems he sees in all the other desks. They’re faulty and he’s on a mission to prove it.
So it’s still partially a feeling of accomplishment (perhaps false), but it’s also a feeling of scientific validation- the feeling of affirming your theories about the way things should have been.
(Off-topic: Experiments 2 and 3, combined with this interpretation, suggest that the common wisdom is correct. Great art is forged in the heat of struggle and the crucible of bitter reality.)