My research with my colleagues Daniel Mochon and Dan Ariely suggests that when we invest our own precious time and labor into creating something, we imbue it with far greater value than more objective observers like our spouses—what we have called the “IKEA effect.” In our experiments, we’ve asked people to make things like origami cranes, LEGO helicopters, and IKEA storage boxes. No matter how mundane the task—and assembling IKEA boxes is no great artistic endeavor—we find that people become more attached to what they made than to similar objects made by others. In some cases, they even love their products as much as objectively better products assembled by experts.
In fact, we have shown that when people create objects in the sweet spot of “difficult-enough-but-not-too-difficult,” they not only love those objects more, but also experience greater happiness; it really is fun to create. Sadly, though, most of us pass up the opportunity to create at every possible moment, preferring our food to be prepackaged and our products pre-assembled. Our research suggests that in so doing, we are leaving happiness on the (dinner) table.
IKEA not only save themselves space and assembly costs, but they make people more satisfied with their purchases. Brilliant.