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IKEA Effect

IKEA Effect


The IKEA effect is a cognitive bias that results in the increase in the valuation of items or services we partially create. The effect is reduced if we destroy the item or fail to complete it successfully.

Perhaps one of the most powerful examples of the IKEA effect was on the sale of instant cake mixes in the 1940s. Initially sales of cake mixes did not respond to advertising and marketing activity. To discover why sales were so low the psychologist Ernest Dichter was employed to observe and interview housewives in their own kitchens.

Image of a Victoria sponge cake

What he found was that because the cake mix made the process of baking so simple housewives felt undervalued. Dichter recommended that in future the cake mixes should be sold without eggs as an ingredient. This meant that customers had to add their own fresh egg to the mix. This additional contribution quickly led to a huge turn around in sales of the product. Notice the message in the top right-hand corner.

Image of instant cake mix example of IKEA effect

Our bias blind spot (another bias) means that we rarely recognise when our perceptions or behaviour are due to a cognitive bias such as the IKEA Effect. We assume that we are being rational and not subject to irrational behaviour.

User Research Can Help Mitigate the Impact of the IKEA Effect:

Conducing usability research can help you avoid the impact of the IKEA Effect by obtaining more balanced feedback from people who have no involvement or interest in what you have helped create. Never recruit people who you know to give user feedback on something you have helped design or create. They may not be comfortable giving their opinions if they think they could hurt your feelings.

User research allows you to obtain feedback from real people at each stage of the development process. This can inform your decision making about design changes, new features, concepts and new content. Usability testing can also identify problems with navigation and the functionality of a website. It is also valuable in helping to develop hypothesis for A/B testing programs because it tells you the why as opposed to the what which web analytics will tell you.


Usability research: Why does usability testing improve conversions? 

Cognitive bias: What are cognitive biases? 

A/B testing software – Which A/B testing tools should you choose?