Saturday, January 28, 2012

Satisfaction, The IKEA effect, and you.

You might have it in your house: that piece of swedish furniture that came in pieces. It feels good, doesn't it, to know that you put it together yourself.
People researched this sort of thing. Named the IKEA effect: people place a higher value on things that they build themselves than things they don't.
As long as it's not too hard, people may even pay more for things that require them to do some of the work.
Psychologically, some of the difference has to do with looking forward vs. looking back. People tend to want to avoid work, but value more highly the things they had to work hard for for. That's the difference between 'to-do' and 'done'.
For example: You'll savour the apple pie you made yourself - with a fresh fork and everything, but you won't pay as much attention to the discount box of cookies that fell into the shopping cart.
Calories used to be hard to come by, now they're easy. Fast food restaurants have mechanized the delivery of foods - like french fries - that are hard to prepare at home. You don't appreciate them as much, and perversely try to eat more in order to be satisfied. By the way, the first two bites of dessert are the tastiest: Share it with a friend.
Same with distance and exotic locales. With a credit card and a passport you could be in Japan in 24 hours. If it was going to take two weeks or two months to go somewhere, you'd certainly do your research and appreciate your time there more.
How can this make your better? To extract more value out of your experiences, you need to put more into them.
For your food: The typical restaurant experience is pretty forgettable. If you cook it yourself, you'll appreciate the result more you would the same dish ordered at a restaurant.
Growing up, knowing that something was 'from our garden' always gave it additional prestige on the dinner plate, and made us appreciate it more. Bonus points if you grow the food yourself. The same goes for berries you pick or, indeed, furniture that you built yourself.
The to-do list sounds like work, the to-have-done list sounds like reflections on accomplishment. Change the name of the list, put more effort into it and feel the satisfaction of a complete and deserved experience.
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