You know those pieces of furniture that come in a flat pack with 900 screws and 20 pages of instructions? While many find themselves frustrated by the DIY process (an entertainment armoire that needed assembly was once referred to a “Divorce in a box” by someone I know) there is an actual psychological benefit that some find in appreciating a piece of furniture they had to work hard to put together. It’s called the IKEA effect because so much of the superstore’s items are meant to be assembled by the owner.
Psychologists dubbed the phenomenon the IKEA effect in 2011 when their research showed that study participants enjoyed items like LEGO sets and origami creations more than professionally made products that required no work. It’s not just things that are built. Cake mixes in the 1950s did not sell very well initially because they only required adding water. Bakers didn’t feel they’d created anything. Adding eggs and butter or oil to the required additions made the mixes much more popular. More recent research in children shows that this effect shows up around the age of four or five when children show a preference for something they made versus a toy or object they were just given.