IKEA effect [Labor = Love?]

So we all know that IKEA is really popular among countries. People come to IKEA, buying packed furniture and go home to unpack it and build it into a finished furniture. But there is something really interesting about IKEA furniture. Builders, who build their own IKEA furniture value their furniture ridiculously more than an identical furniture that has been built by another builder. This phenomenon is called IKEA effect. People usually place a really high value on the product that they created or partially created.

Billy bookcase instructions

So the question is, why people value more for a product that they need to build it first, rather than a product that is already been built by the manufacturer? (which is usually better than non-builder). Well, the main reason is people tend to have an emotional attachment to something that they build with their own hands, rather than the product that has been built by someone/manufacturer. The harder the building process the more value it results.

This phenomenon also already happened back in 1940 when a company starts selling instant cake set that only need water to be put in the oven. But in fact, that instant cake product is so unpopular, people don’t want that product.

The reason is that it will undervalue their wife or the person that made it. Because there is not enough effort for that cake. Because anybody or even children could just mix some water put it in the oven, and the result is the same with an adult housewife making it. So what do the manufacturers do?

They make another product but without the egg and the milk inside the powder. It turns out that product became so popular until now. With the new product, you have to measure the milk, the oil, crack the egg, mix it. So it needs more effort so you can give it to another person and proudly says that it’s your cake. So from the experiment results, we could conclude it into what Dan Ariely says four principles of human endeavor:

  1. When we put an effort and attention into something, we are not just changing the object in a physical way or the use of the product, but we also change the way we value and evaluate the object.
  2. Greater labor leads to greater love.
  3. Our overvaluation of the things we made runs so deep resulting in the assumption that others will share our biased perspective.
  4. When we cannot complete something that we already put effort into it, we don’t feel so attached to it.

This phenomenon also still used by manufacturers to give an emotional attachment to their consumers, like lego, build-a-bear, and other DIY ( Do it your self) products.

So what do you think about this post? Tell us in the comment box below!


Michael I. Norton, Daniel Mochon, Dan Ariely, The IKEA effect: When labor leads to love, Journal of Consumer Psychology, Volume 22, Issue 3, 2012, Pages 453-460.

Ariely, Dan. (2010). The upside of irrationality: The unexpected benefits of defying logic at work and at home. New York: Harper.


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