The IKEA Effect: When and Why Labor Leads to Love

Presented by

Michael I.

Associate Professor of Business Administration - Harvard Business School

Mon, 06/27/2011 - 4:30pm

We explore the psychology underlying people’s sometimes irrational liking for the products of their own labor – their misshapen mugs, their crooked bookcases – or what we call the “IKEA effect.” We ask people to create (assembling sets of LEGO sets, folding origami, and building IKEA storage boxes) and show that they value their amateurish creations as much as expertly-made products – and expect others to share their inflated opinions. Importantly, we show that labor must be well-calibrated – not too easy, not too difficult – and people must be able to complete at least a rickety version of their creation in order for the IKEA effect to emerge.

  • Co-creation of products and advertising is increasingly part of the marketing toolbox, yet little is known about the effects of co-creation on consumers’ subsequent attitudes and behaviors toward brands and products.
  • In a series of experiments, we engage customers in the creative process – with simple tasks like folding origami – and measure the impact of co-creation on the value placed on products.
  • Labor leads to love to such an extent that people value their (often amateurish) creations as much as the well-crafted creations of experts.


Associate Professor of Business Administration - Harvard Business School

Michael I. Norton is an Associate Professor of Business Administration in the Marketing Unit at the Harvard Business School. He holds a B.A. in Psychology and English from Williams College and a Ph.D. in Psychology from Princeton University. Prior to joining HBS, Professor Norton was a Fellow at the MIT Media Lab and MIT’s Sloan School of Management. His work has been published in a number of leading academic journals, including Science and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and has been covered in media outlets such as the Economist, the Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post. His research has twice been featured in the New York Times Magazine Year in Ideas issue, in 2007 (Ambiguity Promotes Liking) and 2009 (The Counterfeit Self). His "The IKEA Effect: When Labor Leads to Love" was featured in Harvard Business Review's Breakthrough Ideas for 2009.

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