Welcome to the latest in my occasional series highlighting interesting findings from academic research that are relevant to political campaigning.
This time, a possible answer to the continuing puzzle about how much time people spend artworking their own leaflets from scratch rather than using the many high quality templates already available for free. It isn’t only that people waste time reinventing the wheel. It’s also that many of those new wheels are, let us say…, not very round.
The answer perhaps comes in the latest issue of Tom Stafford’s excellent Reasonable People newsletter:
There’s a paper on this phenomenon, the “IKEA effect”, named after the furniture store famous for selling flatpack furniture which you assemble yourself.
From Norton, Mochon & Ariely’s (2012) abstract:
In four studies in which consumers assembled IKEA boxes, folded origami, and built sets of Legos, we demonstrate and investigate boundary conditions for the IKEA effect — the increase in valuation of self-made products. Participants saw their amateurish creations as similar in value to experts’ creations, and expected others to share their opinions. We show that labor leads to love only when labor results in successful completion of tasks; when participants built and then destroyed their creations, or failed to complete them, the IKEA effect dissipated. Finally, we show that labor increases valuation for both “do-it-yourselfers” and novices.
Norton and colleagues discuss the psychological drivers of the IKEA effect. Perhaps it is because of the effort itself, or the chance to be competent at something? Perhaps the signalling value of those things (“Look what I made!”)? Or the positive feelings associated with being a “smart shopper”, not needing someone to pre-build something for you?
Something they don’t consider, but which seems a plausible factor to me, is assurance: if you make something yourself you have insight into how reliably it is constructed.
That also sounds like just why people might prefer to artwork their own leaflets from scratch too. With a little help perhaps also from the Dunning-Kruger effect.