Nerd Nuggets: What is the IKEA Effect?

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When you put your own blood, sweat, and tears into something, you value it more.  You probably know that, but you probably don’t know this tendency has a name — the IKEA Effect — and it has many applications in the workplace and on America’s store shelves.

I’ve mentioned this before:  I am now writing stories for a cool website named, which explores the world of applied behavioral science — i.e., how those cool psychology studies you sometimes hear about apply to you in real life.  How car dealers trick you into overpaying for things.  Why everyone thinks they are a better than average driver. Why a free drink at the end of the night might make you feel better about a huge bar tab. Why you like building things yourself.  PeopleScience is calling these essays “Nerd Nuggets.”

Researchers love giving these “effects” clever names — in fact, the clever name, for better and worse, is crucial for a scientist to gain popular acceptance of an idea.  Today’s essay is on the “IKEA Effect,” which is precisely what it sounds like. Here’s a taste of the piece, which you can read in full at

Somewhere in your home there’s probably an old table, dresser or bookcase that’s far past its expiration date. It might even be wobbly and missing a few screws, but you can’t quite bring yourself to throw it away.

Why not?

You know why. You BUILT the thing. Maybe it was decades ago, but darnit, it’s the product of your own handiwork. It’s your baby. You’ve been moved from labor to love, and it’s not easy to throw away something you love.

You’ve magically been caught up in what behavioral scientists and their fans – yes, scientists have fans – call The IKEA Effect. People who make things, or at least assemble things, value them more. A lot more. Subjects in an experiment involving simple IKEA boxes were willing to pay a stunning 63% more than fully built boxes. That doesn’t make rational sense, of course. The consumers had to pay extra in the form of their own free labor to do the construction work, and they were STILL willing to pay more for their “hand-made” boxes. 

“Some assembly required” turns out to be an excellent product pitch…..

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About Bob Sullivan 1638 Articles
BOB SULLIVAN is a veteran journalist and the author of four books, including the 2008 New York Times Best-Seller, Gotcha Capitalism, and the 2010 New York Times Best Seller, Stop Getting Ripped Off! His latest, The Plateau Effect, was published in 2013, and as a paperback, called Getting Unstuck in 2014. He has won the Society of Professional Journalists prestigious Public Service award, a Peabody award, and The Consumer Federation of America Betty Furness award, and been given Consumer Action’s Consumer Excellence Award.

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