How do things replicate themselves

IKEA effect - successfully replicated

Actually a classic frustration trap: Spent the entire Saturday afternoon in the Swedish furniture store IKEA, only ate tiny hot dogs (but half a dozen of them) and bought way too many decorative items again (that weren't even on the shopping list). When you arrive at home completely done, the real pleasure begins: cupboards, chests of drawers or even entire kitchen units need to be set up using a huge arsenal of dowels, plug-in elements and less ergonomic hex keys.

It is true that people often swear loudly during assembly, but this intensive examination of one's own piece of furniture has an interesting effect: If we build things ourselves (or invest work in product manufacture), our willingness-to-pay (WTP for short) for these products also increases. The WTP increases z. B. in comparison to already finished products as well as to products that we have to dismantle again after assembly. Michael Norton and colleagues (2012) therefore appropriately called this phenomenon the IKEA effect.

As an explanation for the IKEA effect, it is argued that the work invested gives us a sense of responsibility towards the product. This ultimately leads to the fact that we develop a psychological relationship with the product.

Good science is characterized by the robustness of the results, and psychological effects in particular should be replicated in different areas. This is exactly what Marko Sarstedt and colleagues (2017) did and they were able to successfully use the Replicate IKEA effect and further investigate the causes of this effect. To do this, they had their test participants put together bracelets from so-called loom straps.

  • The first experimental group (EG1) received three already assembled bracelets to choose from and was allowed to write a short text on one of the bracelets.
  • The second group (EG2) received assembly instructions for the bracelet and was then allowed to assemble it.
  • A third group (EG3) was also informed that the bracelet manufacturer would award the best design and produce it in series. This should strengthen a feeling of customer empowerment and test whether this also has an effect on the WTP.
  • In the fourth group (EG4), the test participants were interrupted during assembly and thus could not completely manufacture the bracelet.
  • The participants in the last group (EG5) had to dismantle the bracelet after assembly. In other words, they had the same effort as EG2, but there was no longer a finished product than was asked about the WTP at the end.

The results show that subjects in EG2 are significantly more willing to pay than those in group EG1. The sense of possession is also much more pronounced in group EG2. It turns out that this possession effect has a mediating role in the willingness to pay. Customer empowerment in EG3 does not lead to a significantly higher willingness to pay compared to EG2. If the product has to be dismantled again (EG5), the willingness to pay also decreases. This is also the case if the completion is interrupted (EG4), but not significantly.

The IKEA effect is suitable for all companies in which the consumer can actively participate in the value chain. For example, the final assembly of a bicycle or the design of a textile print. This means that even mass-produced products such as a bookshelf can be given a personal touch. The conclusion of Norton et. al. (2012) "Labor leads to love".

Further information and sources:

Norton, M. I., Mochon, D. & Ariely, D. (2012). The IKEA Effect: When labor leads to love. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 22 (3), 453-460.

Sarstedt, M., Neubert, D. & Barth, K. (2017). The IKEA Effect. A conceptual replication. Journal of Marketing Behavior, Online First.

Study available at: