“IKEA effect” – why we love our crooked tables
If you think about it, each of you must have assembled a new table, chair, or a bedstand at some point in life. Depending on how good you are at crafts, your family members either praised your talent or insisted that you call in a professional. In either case, I'm sure you personally thought you did a great job and used that table/chair/ bedstand even when nobody else wanted to. So why would a rational person like yourself do that?
This is a psychological phenomenon, recently dubbed the “IKEA effect” after the name of a famous Swedish home furniture brand. IKEA is well-known for its low prices and modern designs. Yet the true trademark of the company is the comparatively big charges of assembly service. In the UK, you will have to pay a standard basic charge of £25 plus 20% of the full retail purchase price. With the price on an average table being about 50 pounds, paying 35 pounds for putting it together seems irrational. This is exactly why most people opt for doing it themselves. And a jolly good time they have doing it!
Now, we obviously look at it from a customer perspective, but a group of behavioural psychologists saw it as the basis for an experiment. Their hypothesis was that people would be willing to pay more for an item of furniture which they have assembled themselves, as opposed to the one done by a specialist. The results showed that is indeed so. The subjects in the experiment loved their tables much more and would rather keep them, than get the ones done by a professional. Of course, it doesn't mean that they couldn't spot certain imperfections in their work, but they subconsciously minimized them in their minds.
These findings have certain limitations, though. When the same subjects were asked to build half a table, they valued the professional's work more than their own. This shows that the “IKEA effect” only works with completed tasks, not just parts of them.
But how is all this relevant to the business world? Apparently, it explains why managers continue to devote resources to sometimes failing projects they have invested their labour in. Moreover, it can also explain why managers disregard good ideas developed in other departments of the company, in favour of possibly inferior ideas, suggested in their own one.
There is no point in fighting it – we will always value the results of our labour more than that of others. What you can do about it is stop occasionally, and reflect on your opinion. Maybe that assembly service is not that bad after all.
assembled – put pieces together, for example, furniture
a bedstand – a bedside table, a small table next to your bed
dubbed – named
charge – an amount of money that you have to pay for a service
opt for – choose
a jolly good time they have – they have a really good time (used in spoken English)
would be willing to – would be prepared to
subjects – people that are used in a medical or scientific test
spot – notice
subconsciously – related to thoughts or feelings that you have but do not think about, or do not realize you have
findings – information that you discover after research
devote – spend a lot of time or effort doing something
disregard – the attitude of someone who does not respect something or consider it important
inferior – not as good as someone or something else
reflect on – think about something again