IKEA Effect

Study Proposal #1:  IKEA Effect | 18SEP13


The IKEA effect translates directly to how people value abstract experiences that take place over a long period of time. In particular, I claim that students who had a larger stake in designing their degree program (i.e. course selection) will see the value of their degree as higher than those who had minimal choice. This result will be seen when personal value are adjusted for the market worth of their degree.  (i.e. engineers may by default see value as greater than poets)


To investigate the relation of the IKEA effect to abstract, long term experiences, we will gather academic data and metadata from alumni who have paid off student loans.

The most important data to gather from alumni will be their total cost of education, including interest paid on student loans and the program they graduated from. This will be compared to their own willingness-to-pay price in retrospect given their holistic post-student life experience and an estimate of their average per-annum life earnings.

This will be compared with data from the appropriate academic calendar to find information about the structure of the program they were in and how much choice for courses was offered. Information about average per-annum salaries for graduates of their degree program generated in the appropriate year must also be gathered.

Once these results are adjusted to reflect relative income, we will be able to see which degree programs were intrinsically valued higher.


    If the IKEA effect is relevant to events that do not involve physical interaction per se and that take place over longer periods, then this study will demonstrate that students with more of a stake in choosing courses and customizing their programs will see their degrees as higher in value than market price paid.


This study will demonstrate that the value of experiences, even though they are long term and not based on physical objects and therefore possibly harder to comprehend and develop attachment to, are greater when participants have greater stake in choices regarding their content.

If the hypothesis is correct, this would suggest that institutions who offer long-term, more abstract experiences, like school or knowledge work, should redesign their curricula or cultures to offer as much meaningful choice as possible in terms of course selection or project involvement. This will maximize alumni or employee valuation of their offerings in retrospect. This could improve the rate and volume of alumni donations due to more positive feelings, and could improve employee retention in the knowledge sector.

This likely will also suggest that advertisers should design brand experiences that are long term, personalized and involve meaningful choice in how content evolves.


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