The Ikea Effect: Manipulating your enjoyment of the everyday.

Stuart: Here’s a guest post from my good friend Sam Roberts, who I hope might be compelled to start his own blog very soon! Enjoy.

If I could make a single New Year’s Resolution suggestion, it would be to make the effort to prepare one’s own evening meal every day (or at least share the responsibility with a partner or housemate). The beneficial effects of this simple change are numerous, and mostly obvious, so I won’t touch on them; but what I will try to bring together is how this relates to the seemingly unrelated title.

The IKEA effect is a cognitive bias proposed in a 2011 Harvard Business School paper, which leads a person to putting a disproportionally high value on something they have at least partially created. The suggestion that labor enhances affection for its results is something that we can use to our advantage, both in a business setting and a personal one. I consistently encourage my clients to take an active role in the construction of a brief, and try to incorporate them in the process of creating work wherever it is sensible. This has seemingly led to better results, however this could well be a confirmation bias on my part.

Stuart: Buy one of these. They will change your life.

On a personal level however, we can use it to enhance the satisfaction we derive from anything, from house decorations to the food we eat. If you are not the cooking type, then you can always cheat your way to creativity (we could call this a Culinary Ikea Flatpack): get some ready-made tortellini and knock up a simple tomato sauce, or just throw ingredients into a slow cooker, given enough time anything will taste good. Those few moments of thought and execution can do wonders for the level of enjoyment you get from eating, and even partially home cooked delights can prove a much needed treat after a long day.

Be careful though when cooking for others, as the study concluded that we also mistakenly think other people will share in our excitement over our inferior creations, so best to find an objective third person before serving up your slow-cooked stew to a first date.

Stuart: Great post! Some more good brain food from the co-authors of the HBS paper.

Michael Norton: See his new book Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending, and his TED talk on how to buy happiness.

Daniel Mochon: follow him on Twitter.

Dan Ariely: See his TED talk on decision making, and his Coursera introduction to irrationality.

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Author: Stuart Hughes

Twenty-something from the hills and vales of Wales, grappling with the logistics of becoming a little more cosmopolitan.

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