npr reports on the Ikea effect
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.
We've known about this effect for decades. It's what I think of as the cake mix effect. Even though anyone can make a cake using a packet of cake mix, it requires just enough input from the consumer to create a sense of satisfaction when the finished cake comes out of the oven.
It's why early cake mix ads such as the one above from 1955 aimed to create the idea of a creative culinary partnership between product and consumer. Sometimes the product would be deliberately formulated in such a way that an egg had to be added - merely to create a greater sense of personal involvement.
"Imagine that, you know, you built a table," said Daniel Mochon, a Tulane University marketing professor, who has studied the phenomenon. "Maybe it came out a little bit crooked. Probably your wife or your neighbor would see it for what it is, you know? A shoddy piece of workmanship. But to you that table might seem really great, because you're the one who created it. It's the fruit of your labor. And that is really the idea behind the Ikea Effect."
I don't know how much my cynicism comes into play here, but psychology academics seems to be remarkably good at repackaging old phenomena under new names.
Most of us intuitively believe that the things we labor at are the things we love. Mochon and his colleagues, Michael Norton at the Harvard Business School and Dan Ariely at Duke University, have turned that concept on its head. What if, they asked, it isn't love that leads to labor, but labor that leads to love?
In a series of experiments, they have demonstrated that people attach greater value to things they built than if the very same product was built by someone else. And in new experiments published recently, they've discovered why it happens: Building your own stuff boosts your feelings of pride and competence, and also signals to others that you are competent.
Crikey - they get paid for this stuff? Of course this bit of research fluff is another example the phenomenon it purports to be investigating. The researchers are no doubt satisfied with their efforts because they mixed in their own angle.
Cake mix research.