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The Psychology of the Ikea Effect

Updated: Apr 27, 2023

Ikea effect psychology marketing

The term Ikea Effect was coined in 2011 by Michael I. Norton, Daniel Mochon, and Dan Ariely at Harvard Business School to describe the phenomenon that consumers place more value on products when they are involved in their creation. They argue that this may have to do with the way we as humans do something called effort justification: for example, "although people rate their jobs as among their least pleasurable activities, they also rate them as among their most rewarding (White and Dolan 2009)." Norton, Mochon, And Ariely also point to the fact that studies show rats and starlings prefer food sources that require some effort rather than none (Aiken 1957; Kacelnik and Marsh 2002; Lawrence and Festinger 1962), and that pre-made cake mixes in the 1950s didn't take off until the manufacturers required an egg to be added. There seems to be a sweet spot of effort that inspires consumers.

What is the Psychology of the Ikea Effect?

The Ikea Effect demonstrates the idea that we value products we create as similar in value to products created by experts. The Ikea Effect is likely similar to the endowment cognitive bias, where we more highly value that which is ours. However, Norton, Mochon, and Ariely controlled for this and found that the endowment effect does not account for all variability in perceived value for DIY projects. They also found that completion of the task was more important than simply contributing to steps throughout. In addition, in the "unbuild" condition where they also had to deconstruct their creations, no longer held.

Exceptions to the Ikea effect

Norton, Mochon, & Ariely found that the Ikea Effect no longer held if participants destroyed their creations or did not successfully complete them.

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The psychology of the Ikea Effect is a very interesting phenomenon that shows we value our own creations more than those of experts. It is an interesting technique that can save labor and shipping costs for businesses, while giving customers a sense of productivity, involvement, and even customization. Examples include build-a-bear, apple picking, and picking the finishes in your home. Do you have any ideas how to utilize the Ikea Effect?


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