Ikea Effect

What is the Ikea Effect?

The Ikea Effect is an interesting brain trick that happens to many of us. Think of it this way: if you spend a couple of hours putting together a chair from a box of parts, you’re going to love that chair more than one you just picked out at a store already made. Even if a professional furniture builder could have done a better job, it doesn’t matter to you. You might not even see the small mistakes because you’re so proud of what you built. The name comes from Ikea, a store that sells furniture that you carry home and assemble yourself. This effect shows us that the hard work and time we put into creating something makes us feel super attached to it. And sometimes, that means we think it’s worth more than it really might be.

How Does the Ikea Effect Affect Us?

When we’re under the spell of the Ikea Effect, it touches different parts of our lives. Here are some examples of where it might show up, along with why they are examples of this mental trick:

  • DIY Projects: Imagine you’ve spent the afternoon making a colorful kite. Your kite might have some crooked lines or mismatched patterns, but to you, it’s perfect. You cherish it more than a store-bought kite because you brought it to life with your own two hands.
  • Work Projects: Let’s say you’re part of a team that designs a new website. You’ve all put in lots of time and ideas. Even if the final site has a couple of issues, you’re all convinced it’s the best because of your hard work.
  • School Assignments: If you spend long nights writing a paper, pouring your thoughts onto each page, you’ll likely feel it’s a masterpiece, potentially even better than a classmate’s with a similar grade, because of your dedication.
  • Cooking: When you cook a meal from scratch, mixing all the ingredients and adding your own twist, the food seems extra delicious. It’s not just because it might taste good, but because it’s a product of your effort.

Our scenario from earlier about building a wobbly desk is a classic example of the Ikea Effect. By putting effort into the assembly, the desk becomes more than a piece of furniture. It’s a personal achievement. You might find yourself ignoring its flaws because of the connection you’ve made during the process of putting it together.

Dealing with the Ikea Effect

Knowing about the Ikea Effect can actually help us think clearer and make smarter choices. Below are some strategies to help us manage this sneaky mental bias:

  • Seek Objective Opinions: When you’re very close to a project, it’s hard to see it objectively. Ask someone who’s not involved to take a look and give you their honest thoughts—this can help you see the real value of what you created.
  • Compare with Standards: To get a true sense of how good your work is, measure it against professional standards. If you made a vase, for example, how does it stack up against ones made by experts?
  • Reflect on Effort and Outcome: Think hard about whether all the time and energy you spent actually made your project better, or if it just made you feel more connected to it.
  • Practice Detachment: This is tough but important. Try to separate your feelings from the thing you made. Remember, just because it’s yours doesn’t make it the best there is.

By keeping an open mind and questioning your work honestly, you can step around the trap of overvaluing it just because of the effort you’ve invested.

Related Biases and Concepts

The Ikea Effect is one of many ways our brain can bend our judgment. Here are several related ideas that can also affect how we think and make decisions:

  • Overconfidence Bias: This is when we’re too sure of ourselves and what we can do, which can make us miss the truth or misjudge a situation.
  • Confirmation Bias: This means we pay more attention to facts and details that back up what we already believe, ignoring evidence that doesn’t fit.
  • Sunk Cost Fallacy: This happens when we keep doing something because we’ve already spent time, money, or effort on it, instead of thinking about what we could gain now from stopping or changing course.
  • Endowment Effect: This leads us to put a higher value on things we own just because they’re ours, whether or not they’re actually worth more.

Knowing these related ideas can make you more aware of how these mental shortcuts and mistakes influence the way we think and decide on things.

Debates and Controversies

There’s an ongoing discussion about the Ikea Effect concerning consumer behavior and marketing. Some people think companies can take advantage of this bias. They encourage customers to put their own touch on products, making them more likely to buy and feel attached to them. However, some are concerned that capitalizing on this bias could lead people to spend money on things they don’t really need, chasing the satisfaction of creating or customizing them.

A second debate is about whether the increased value from the Ikea Effect is real or just in our heads. Some argue that putting personal work and creativity into something does add something special you can’t measure. Others think it’s all just an illusion and we might overlook real problems because of it.


Wrapping it up, the Ikea Effect significantly shapes how we value our effort and creations. It’s a mental shortcut that pops up everywhere—from small personal crafts to big team projects at work. By understanding this effect and others like it, we can learn to make better, more balanced choices. Debates about the Ikea Effect also show us that how we measure worth isn’t always straightforward. At the end of the day, being aware of this cognitive bias is key to not letting it control our judgment too much.