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  • Reverend James Squire

The Ikea Effect

Updated: Feb 12, 2021



Vicki and I have just purchased a treadmill that has taken up residence in our lower level. It has joined a set of weights used by one of my sons. I never realized that treadmills were in short supply because of the Pandemic. There were none available in our area so we went to New Jersey to purchase it. It weighs 300 pounds and does everything but take your blood pressure. However, it does take your pulse. When the salesman asked if we wanted it shipped and put together when it arrived, there wasn’t a millisecond that went by when we said, “Yes!” I am an out on the street exercise kind of guy, but with Covid-19 and the danger of going to a gym, this seemed to be the answer with the Winter months just around the corner.

My family and I built a house with our own hands and with the help of subcontractors, but we knew that putting the treadmill together would be well above our pay grade. The house required a lot of hard work. Have I become too lazy to make an attempt on the new acquisition? When asked how long a project on the house would take, it always took 10 times longer. Did I not have a big enough investment in getting the treadmill set up? These are questions that psychologists such as Angela Duckworth, a Professor of Psychology at Penn, wrestle with in a phenomenon known as the Ikea Effect.

When friends visit us from afar, some will ask, “Can you take me to the local Ikea because we don’t have one in our area?” We have put many Ikea products together and are always happy when there aren’t parts left over. The Ikea effect is when you put something together yourself or do something that requires hard work, you want to show it off. There are times when someone you are talking with doesn’t quite see your excitement for your new product. What meant a lot to you may not mean a lot to them. As I have written about in my memoir, there is an axiom that “what may not be important to us, may be very important to someone else.” We need to tune into that more as people show appreciation to others for what is important to them.

The Ikea Effect also raises the question, “Are we basically lazy?” Given the choice between buying something that needs to be put together as opposed to buying it already made, it seems that 63% of people prefer to putting it together themselves. This can be the basis for the popularity of the Ikea stores and the reason that some visitors from a different part of the country want to go there to pick something up when they visit that they can build it at home.

I am guilty of this phenomenon because anyone who comes to our home on the Chesapeake and hasn’t been there before, I never fail to mention that, “We built it!”

The Ikea Effect relates to what we are going through during this Pandemic and the election. If a candidate has not involved himself or herself in a solution to a problem, you won’t hear them bring it up. If fact, they wish that no one would. Likewise, those issues where they have been engaged and involved are the ones that become the focus of any campaign.

If engagement, involvement, and hard work are keys to our personal pride just as it is for the politicians, we should look for ways to get more of that in our daily lives. The Ikea Effect is one of the motivations for the volunteer efforts of many which is a key part of our gross national product.

In 2018, 63 million volunteers did 8 billion hours of work. At $24.69 per hour, they contributed 297.5 billion dollars to the GNP and felt great about their engagement, involvement, and work. As it turns out, the Ikea Effect is a wonderful part of human nature particularly during difficult times.

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