They are calling it a new psychological phenomenon, “the Ikea Effect.” Three professors who have studied this phenomenon have found that people attach more value to things they build themselves, even if those things are imperfect, like a somewhat wobbly Ikea dresser. In a series of experiments, Professors Mochon, Norton and Ariely and found that people who create their own items such as an Ikea table, Legos or Build-A-Bear, have increased feelings of pride and confidence. The more effort people put into something, the more they come to value it. They also found, however, that people who first felt incompetent and then succeeded at building their own item were the most vulnerable to the Ikea Effect. When National Public Radio ran a story on this, I was stunned by the similarity to the theory of why mediation is so successful.
Likewise in mediation, we know that if we empower people to arrive at their own solutions (rather than ramming it down their throats or deciding for them), the solutions are more durable, more likely to be honored by all parties, and the conflict diminishes over time. The skill of the mediator is to allow parties to arrive at their own solutions, help them brainstorm without deciding for them, and seeing the pride that follows from the successful settlement of sometimes a long and drawn out lawsuit. According to the experts, people enjoy greater satisfaction when they have been incompetent. Where a lawsuit has erupted, the parties may well feel incompetent, and thus we often see a huge wave of relief come over parties’ faces when the agreement is finally signed and the case is resolved.