May 23, 2017 – The IKEA Effect

We did a lot this weekend as a family and I thoroughly enjoyed all of it. It’s just so nice to be back together even though I understand and accept that it’s temporary as our children begin their own adult lives in their own unique ways. I cherish every moment we have together. But like everything, moderation is the great equalizer that allows those who leverage it to live happier lives. More on that tomorrow.

One of the things we did was plant some things in the front garden. After negotiating placement with the boss, I ended up with the responsibility to plant sixteen shade plants right in front of our porch. While it wasn’t difficult and didn’t take too long, upon completion I stood proudly admiring my handiwork while watering the roots to set the plants growing. The arrangement of these floral jewels reminded me of a Monet watercolor set in Giverny and, of course these miracle plants are bound to flourish over time until they resemble plants from the mythical Hanging Garden of Babylon stopping all our visitors in their tracks while gazing in awe at the verdant thumb of this garden’s creator. Impressed? I was even if the rest of the family barely noticed. And that is what is called the IKEA effect.

We all value our competence and effort because it reinforces a positive assessment of our worth in the world. Researchers have proven that people value IKEA furniture more than similar quality furniture because they assemble it themselves. They also note that if the assembly results in a slightly misshapen product that our friends and family see as a flaw, we consider the final result exceptional work and don’t even notice the flaw. To further demonstrate the effect, researchers asked people to solve extremely difficult math problems which most couldn’t accomplish. Then the researchers offered participants the choice of assembling IKEA furniture or taking a pre-assembled piece of furniture of similar quality. All the participants who failed at the math problems assembled the IKEA furniture in order to realize a sense of accomplishment and demonstrate their competence.

We want our work to be valued, but sometimes we are stuck valuing it ourselves. That can lead to overvaluing our work in order to maintain our self-confidence. And we don’t even know we do this unless someone points it out. Just something to think about the next time I plant some flowers 🙂

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