Norton, Mochon, & Ariely (2012) – IKEA Effect


Norton, M. I., Mochon, D., & Ariely, D. (2012). The IKEA effect: When labor leads to love. Journal of consumer psychology22(3), 453-460.

Other References

  • Bergquest, M. (2003). Open-source software development as gift culture: Work and identity formation in an internet community. In C. Garsten, & H. Wulff (Eds.), New technologies at work: People, screens and social virtuality (pp. 223–241). Oxford: Berg.
  • Franke, N., & Piller, F. (2004). Value creation by toolkits for user innovation and design: The case of the watch market. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 21, 401–415.
  • Franke, N., Schreier, M., & Kaiser, U. (2010). The “I designed it myself” effect in mass customization. Management Science, 56, 125–140.
  • Grant, A. M., & Parker, S. K. (2009). Redesigning work design theories: The rise of relational and proactive perspectives. Academy of Management Annals, 3, 273–331.
  • Hackman, J. R., & Oldham, G. R. (1976). Motivation through the design of work: Test of a theory. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 16, 250–279.
  • Kelty, C. (2008). Two bits: The cultural significance of free software. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
  • Schreier, M. (2006). The value increment of mass-customized products: An empirical assessment. Journal of Consumer Behaviour, 5, 317–327.
  • Shirky, C. (2008). Here comes everybody: The power of organizing without organizations. New York: Penguin Press.
  • Spence, A. M. (1973). Job market signaling. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 87, 355–374.


The IKEA effect is about valuing something more based on effort to get it. This would apply to furniture you make for yourself (vs pre-made) or for membership in a group that had initiation hurdles (vs open membership) as mentioned in the article. It might not apply to things you make on spec for others. If you make new IT for an employer knowing that the result will never be yours to have or even use, the IKEA effect doesn’t seem to apply. If you make new IT for an employer knowing you will be able to own a personal copy or use it for personal reasons, it might. Therefore, the IKEA effect seems more likely in a game studio than typical MIS application development.
Also worth noting: The effect requires successful completion of the effort. There is no direct indication of how effort towards X affects attitudes toward X during the effort, but the text implies completion is required.
…effort without completion— either via assembling and then disassembling a product, or failing to complete the assembly process—does not increase valuation (p. 454).
The authors also assert that
…consumers are willing to pay a premium for products that they have customized to their idiosyncratic preferences (Franke & Piller, 2004; Schreier, 2006) (p. 454).
…consumers value their self-designed products more than those designed by others over and above the value derived from matching their preferences (Franke, Schreier, & Kaiser, 2010); these studies, however, use products that are hedonic and intended for public display such as t-shirts, wristwatches, and cell-phone covers—such that the value likely derives in part from the opportunity to show off one’s products to others.
These citations are probably worth tracking down since it may inform studies of tech workers feeling greater attachment to technologies where they feel they’ve contributed to the design.
The following seems to align with identity theory and material objects as symbols of effectiveness, so more to track down:
self-assembly of products may allow people to both feel competent and display evidence of that competence—their creation—thus permitting them to signal desired attributes to themselves and others (Franke et al., 2010; Spence, 1973) (p. 459).
The paper discusses partial completion, but does not examine contributions to group work. All experiments involve individual efforts. There is conjecture in the discussion, though:
We note that some research suggests that these same principles apply not only to designing tasks for consumers, but also jobs for employees. Many studies point to the motivational benefits of assigning employees to tasks they feel capable of completing (Grant & Parker, 2009; Hackman & Oldham, 1976). Shirky (2008), for example, offers the initial call for programmers to contribute their (unpaid) labor to creating the open source Linux operating system as an example of a successful pitch for labor; programmers were encouraged to make small, manageable contributions, such that the intimidating scope of the total labor needed was deemphasized (see Bergquest (2003) and Kelty (2008) for alternative views of the success of open source initiatives). Unlike with people building their own products, however, initiatives requiring such joint contributions may spread ownership across multiple parties, thereby diluting the impact of labor on any one’s contributor’s liking for that initiative.

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