IKEA’s secret brain hack

You're in the middle of your living room, surrounded by a sea of screws, particle board, and a page of what looks more like hieroglyphics than instructions. You curse to yourself as a seemingly simple construction turns into a mess of mismatched parts.

But eventually, after all the sweat and effort, you finally have a real, tangible bookshelf standing proudly in your home.

And here's the magic: because you built it yourself, you end up loving it a little more than if you'd just bought it fully assembled. It's not just furniture anymore—it's a symbol of your hard work and accomplishment.

And that right there is the IKEA effect in action.

Coined by three business and psychology researchers, the IKEA effect states that we tend to treasure things more when we've had a hand in making them, even if it takes more resources to get there.

It’s quite an interesting phenomenon, and it isn’t limited to just Swedish furniture.

Let’s take a look at a historical example:

In the 1950s, instant cake mixes were introduced to the American market in an attempt to simplify the lives of housewives across the nation. Surprisingly, the cake mixes were quite unpopular. The reasoning? They made cooking too easy, and housewives felt undervalued.

Cake mix manufacturers found a quick solution: alter the recipe to require an egg.

This minimal and seemingly irrelevant change turned the tables, solidifying pre-made cake mix as a staple of 1950s America.

Here are some other, non-cake-related examples of the IKEA effect in action:

  • People are willing to pay steep fees to go pick their own apples at a “U-Pick” orchard when they could get a bushel of apples at the store for half the price with none of the labor.
  • Build-A-Bear Workshop’s teddy bears aren’t higher quality than the teddy bears found in a traditional toy store, but they’re significantly more expensive because they include the customer in the creation process.
  • Homebrewing remains a popular hobby among beer enthusiasts, even if the results are often not the best (we’re looking at you, Uncle Jerry).

In other words, our decisions to “make” things aren’t always the most logical. So, how can we use this knowledge to improve our lives?

Research Purchases

It may be tempting to do home renovations yourself—after all, why not add some personal character to your kitchen by custom-building your cabinets? But before you do so, keep in mind that you aren’t necessarily saving money by doing your own labor.

At the end of the day, the materials and tools needed to build things yourself can cost significantly more than if you were to buy a professional, pre-built alternative. Make sure you compare the final costs and determine if they’re truly worth it.

Value Your Time

Cooking that specialty meal at home rather than eating out may be cheaper, but consider that your time also has value. Saving ten dollars might not be worth it if it requires 3 hours of cooking and cleanup after the fact.

Ask a Friend

If in doubt, get a second opinion. Asking for unbiased advice on purchases can be a great way to flag down any potentially illogical ideas. Impartiality is key.

Want to learn more about the IKEA effect and the psychology behind decision making? Check out this TED Talk.

You could try and source all of Omyum’s brain-boosting ingredients on your own, but that would be succumbing to the IKEA effect. It’s much smarter to just scoop, mix, and sip down some chocolatey goodness.