The IKEA Effect



Before I launch in here, yes, yes, I already know that CH scooped me on this topic last week, but he took a different bent than I had in mind. Heartiste took the perspective that I expected in relating this psychological phenomenon to principles long established in Game by PUA’s – women who invest in a man are more likely to stay invested:

Pick-up artists have a term called compliance, which is a game tactic designed to raise a man’s value relative to the woman’s value, and to gauge a woman’s interest level. The concept is simple: You make a request of a girl, and if she complies you know that she is attracted to you. Furthermore, the very act of complying with your request will cause her to feel more attracted to you.

Investment as a means to attachment isn’t a new idea in psychology, but the PUA application of it is a new twist on it. However the problem with the Ikea Effect is that it can cut both ways.

“Imagine that, you know, you built a table,” said Daniel Mochon, a Tulane University marketing professor, who has studied the phenomenon. “Maybe it came out a little bit crooked. Probably your wife or your neighbor would see it for what it is, you know? A shoddy piece of workmanship. But to you that table might seem really great, because you’re the one who created it. It’s the fruit of your labor. And that is really the idea behind the Ikea Effect.”

From a male perspective it’s easy to see the compliance utility of such a phenomenon when employed with women, however, when you combine this dynamic with a beta (or God forbid an omega) AFC mindset you can begin to understand how it molds the ego of a person ego-invested in reciprocity or Relational Equity.

Most of us intuitively believe that the things we labor at are the things we love. Mochon and his colleagues, Michael Norton at the Harvard Business School and Dan Ariely at Duke University, have turned that concept on its head. What if, they asked, it isn’t love that leads to labor, but labor that leads to love?

I’ve counseled countless guys who are miserably “in love” with BPD women, women who’ve cheated on them, women who by their actions have no capacity for appreciating any effort the guy has made towards relational equity, yet they’ll say “I dunno man, I just love her.”

In a series of experiments, they have demonstrated that people attach greater value to things they built than if the very same product was built by someone else. And in new experiments published recently, they’ve discovered why it happens: Building your own stuff boosts your feelings of pride and competence, and also signals to others that you are competent.

There is an insidious element here: People made to feel incompetent may be more vulnerable to the Ikea Effect. On the other hand, Mochon has found, when people are given a self-esteem boost, they appear to be less interested in demonstrating to themselves and to others that they are competent.

Consider the degree of competence most beta men feel about their lack of (or limited) success with women. They tend to look for convenient excuses for their limited experience with women. They’ll appeal to fate – “I’m just not lucky with the ladies” – or they’ll make comparisons of inadequacy – “Chicks only dig jerks and I’m not like that” – or they’ll disqualify women – “I’m not looking for a skank.” So with all of this at work, imagine the degree of competence a beta guy must feel when he meets with some limited success with a woman. He’ll feel vindicated to be sure, but more so he’ll invest himself in those feelings of adequacy. He’ll be ‘in love’ because of the labor that led to it, and the labor that he feels is necessary to maintain it.

To take this a step further, imagine our now competent beta considering the prospect of losing his ‘loved’ investment, and returning to his former state of incompetence. Combine this with the false expectations of an appreciated relational equity, together with a socialized feminine-primacy conditioning, and likely a marginal social intelligence, and you just begin to see the formula for a potentially violent frustrated chump.


Published by Rollo Tomassi

Author of The Rational Male and The Rational Male, Preventive Medicine

27 comments on “The IKEA Effect

  1. People have a tendency to chase after sunk costs, just like they have a tendency to false-positive pattern recognition.

    “Compliance” is a sunk cost generator, just like attempting to generate relational equity, or provide support for a troubled partner.

    Not sure if any of the above are sexually dimorphic phenomena.

  2. Yup.

    Far easier to either believe there is nothing wrong with you, the problem everyone else. Or some people really just feel too much shame and self loathing to make the necessary changes – it blinds them to the solutions to their problems lie within changing their actions and interactions with the world without necessarily needing to change the core of themselves.

    The more they invest in their problem behaviors, the view of themselves, or the view of the world the more they’ll be paralyzed by either shame or the false sense of perfection.

  3. I’ve long suspected that most of the truly bad criminals in our society are likely men whose perception of their own sexual power has simply been abused in this manner for years, even decades.

  4. I am thinking about the LA cop Dorner and how they just killed him. They bashed down the outer walls with an armored vehicle, then threw in 7 “flamers” and burned him alive.

    Never underestimate the force that the police will use.

    If you are in a situation that has gone to the point where the police are at your house, if your relationship is to that point, then you need to truly evaluate this situation completely.

    If you have experienced the cops being at your house, then you need to go to the search bar of Rationale Male and search for Bipolar Personality Disorder. Search through the results and there is an article of that title. I would post the link but it causes my comment to go into moderation and I don’t wish to waste anybody’s time. So search the blog and find the article.

    If the woman calls 911, get out of the house. Leave the premises immediately.

    I cannot stress this enough. Stats have shown that less charges are filed when the man is not in the house when the police arrive. This places the onus on her to even prove you were there. If you are in the house, then that is fait accompli that you were.

    If you have time, quickly grab some clothes. That depends on where you live the response time of the police. Do not attempt to pack a suitcase. Just grab some shit and get the fuck out.

    But do not go back until at least 12 hours have passed. Really you should never go back.

    It will be a totally different discussion the next day if you have to talk to the police. But when they come into the house, tensions are high and strange shit can and does happen.

    If you are drunk, drive your car only far enough to get away from the house. Then get out of it. The police might put out a call on your plate. Get out the car and get somewhere dark. Call a friend. Use your man card and make them come to get you and take you home.

    This next part is very important. If you cannot get out of the house before the police arrive, then you had better compose yourself. Remember the Dorner rule. Those motherfuckers will kill you. You gain nothing by being antagonistic to the police. Often they will send a mixed, male/female team. Do not challenge the female officer. Speak only in respectful tones to her. I promise she probably a lesbian and definitely a feminist of the first order. If you challenge her in any way, she will make you pay. Speak to them only in respectful tones. They do not give a fuck if you were right or wrong. They don’t fucking care. They will evaluate your mental state at that moment. If you show them you are level headed and composed, cooperative, and most important, respectful, that goes a long way. If you are not, then they have no problem beating the fucking shit out of you.

    Chances are if you are in the house and police come, then you are going to jail, especially if the police detect alcohol on you. Even if they take you to jail, that does not mean you are going be charged with something. So keep your fucking mouth shut, NO MATTER WHAT. Do not freak out if they put cuffs on you. Cooperate. Do not worry. The jail they will take you is actually a fun place, at least the front part. There aren’t a lot of nerds in the jail. The guys are cool and the stories will entertain you. Do no freak out over being taken in. It will all work out unless you complicate matters.

    Given the theme of this article. No matter how much you have invested in your relationship, even though the loss of it will cause emotional pain, especially due to the amount you have invested in it, this rule I will give you should be inviolable for you.

    Here it is.

    If a woman calls the police on you, you leave her.

    Do not waste another minute. Any woman that picks up the phone to call the police no longer has your best interest at heart. Shit happens when those police hit the door and many woman are shocked at what the police do when they arrive and wish they never called. But she fired a shot across your bow when she called the police. She is not on your side. Do not delude yourself that she is or that you were wrong. She called the police on you.

    That is your clue, fuck clue, that is a hammer hitting you up against the side of the head that it is time for you to fucking go. You might have a BPD woman on your hands that caused things to get to this point. I know men and men just don’t beat up on women. You got a crazy woman on your hands.

    So the minute 911 gets called, whether it is a bullshit or not, get the fuck out. No matter what your investment in the relation has been. It is fucking over. Get out of the house and never go back.

  5. “To take this a step further, imagine our now competent beta considering the prospect of losing his ‘loved’ investment, and returning to his former state of incompetence.”

    Another demonstration of how humans are easily caught in the sunken cost fallacy. I’m convinced this is an artifact of modernity, for it is not seen in dogs and other mammals. They have no concept of investment, and happily abandon previous efforts when a better opportunity comes along.


    Wasn’t this the whole premise of “Bridge on the River Kwai”? The prisoners become so invested in building the bridge for their enemy they can’t bare the thought of their “Allies” blowing it up for the greater good.

    This leads to a bigger question…is this the psychology behind the “Shit-test”?—keep the beta invested and controlled?

    I’m now gaming a woman who goes between docile compliance to extreme shit-testing—canceling dates, attempts to guilt or shame me into some type of compliance.

    When I reframe, when I ignore or when I parry those shit-tests by turning arguments around—it keeps her intrigued and interested.

    But I know the minute I give too much I’m building that Bridge that will only lead to further misery…

  7. This is tangentially connected to the ‘skittles’ philosophy, no? Minimal investment, both materially and emotionally means little loss of either if the object or goal (in this case banging the mark) doesn’t come off.

    In many ways a ‘care-less’ attitude really does serve man well.

  8. Timely for me Rollo. The last year, I have had success with some of the most attractive women I’ve ever had. One plate, in particular, was exactly what I was looking for. When she finally rejected me (and cut me out of her life), I just couldn’t believe all my investment hadn’t payed off.

    I learned some pretty important lessons from that experience, not the least of which is to not invest a lot until I’m inside her. More importantly, the advice about not arguing / asserting solid boundaries with a girl until I’m sleeping with her was dead wrong. I realize now that by not doing that, I’m guaranteed to fail every shit test thrown at me. I can look at it now and laugh at how I did everything possible to turn her off.

    Writing off bad investments is something I definitely need to get better at.

  9. I’m glad Rollo linked Pistorius, the Blade Runner who (allegedly) offed his girlfriend this past week. All I could think was, “AFCism claims another.” Dude didn’t have lower legs, but guessing on his enormous fame, he could still get plenty of women in South Africa, which has plenty of beauties. AFCism, oneitis, whatever … that’s what did Pistorius in.

    Thanks for the wise words, Rollo. As always, great reading.

  10. “…or they’ll disqualify women – “I’m not looking for a skank.””

    I witnessed this yesterday on Jerry Springer’s, “Baggage” show. The main contestant revealed that he was a 40-year-old virgin, and his excuse was that he was ‘looking for someone special and not some skank.’ It was evident to me though that this was backwards rationalization for his lack of success, which was most likely due to his insecure and awkward behavior. I mean, if he’s looking for a special girl, what the hell is he doing on Baggage?

    Sure enough, the woman he chose ended up rejecting him because she didn’t want to be a “teacher.” The look on his face said it all: He was hoping that his “investment” in his celibacy would pay off when he revealed it to a girl, only to have his investment come crashing down.

  11. Between Minter’s Get Out of Jail card and WW’s reference to the greatest movie ever made this comment section is pure gold. And the Bridge movie is a great analogy. Idiot Brit colonel was so invested in his “monument” he could not fathom that it also helped the Japanese war effort. Probably only a good lesson for the old guys getting over a break up.

  12. My philosophy is not to have any sunk costs to begin with.

    I only give something to a woman when I get back what I want right away or within a few hours. Smaller this gap, the better.

    If she doesn’t reciprocate, I don’t invest any more, let her know why and walk away. What little bit I do lose, its the cost of doing business (research and testing) therefore not a sunk cost. On to next.

  13. Good call, @Senior Beta. I thought those two comments were exceptional as well. The double-edged nature of the IKEA Effect is an important point, so nice post Rollo.

    Mark Minter: “If a woman calls the police on you, you leave her.”

    walawala: “This leads to a bigger question…is this the psychology behind the “Shit-test”?—keep the beta invested and controlled?”

    That’s effing brilliant, walawala. I think it dawns on all of us who learn Game that women are social climbers who only care about The One of their La La Land. They are happy to trip up and keep down N-1 of the N guys in their individual spheres for relative rank. Real good for civilization and the economy. Disgusting creatures, these womenz. And the SHIT TEST INVESTMENT (Beta Investment) keeps beta down, both in a relationship (as sexed evo theory predicts for provisioning) and without one (as sexed evo theory predicts for the Female Imperative of hypergamy), all at the predator female’s whim. In the latter case there is also a relationship there, a communal ass kicking of the beta heart kind of relationship. I was wondering about but never had clarity on the mechanism that makes the ‘secret society’ per Neil Strauss’ Game, and there it fucking is. Brilliant. Thanks, walawala. I’ll be using that concept when I write or talk about Female Imperative and nice guy failure guaranteed by what women do instinctively do en masse.

  14. I’ve also found that women end up feeling pity for men who ‘work too much’. It’s terrible, I’ve been there, fell for the girl -who wasn’t even pretty, just so darned interesting-, blurted my feelings for her, obviously denied (I already knew I was so deep in the friendzone I would find lava), and thought ‘whew, that was it, now I won’t talk to her that much so it doesn’t haunt me forever’.
    Next thing I know, she’s talking as friends to my best friend -who I didn’t even say anything about the situation- about how I was ‘so insensitive’, ‘only cared about looking alpha or not beta’, ‘robotic’, ‘said it like I already lost’ and that ‘they know who I am so they had to help me’. Then it hit me, you don’t think of a friend like that. It was no big deal if she didn’t like me, whatever, the problem was that she didn’t even respect me, she pitied me. And it was awful.
    Over time I thought what would’ve been this, what did I do to let it all come to this, and something related to this post happen: I realized that I did too much for her, so I fell for her and she took me for granted. That situation hurt my self-esteem like a bitch, look back at it and still feel bad because I didn’t even get the chance to keep my dignity. To this day I didn’t know how I managed to become so lowly to her, and sincerely I have no idea on how to avoid that situation from happening again or how to overcome it in case it happens again because, as I said, I walked away, but it still hurts like a bitch. Jesus.

  15. I hate IKEA. Buying shitty furniture there made out of shitty materials gives you only the illusion of building something. They are selling a false pride, I would say. Instant gratification, nothing more. “I built that!” “No, you put it together. Someone else built all the pieces and wrote the instructions. And they made it out of laminated pressboard crap. That piece of shit will fall apart eventually.”

    Most women truly have no idea how much time and effort and care it takes to truly build something that is built to last. Thus, the allure of the instant gratification of IKEA.

  16. Rollo,

    You can not know how much this post has helped me! I was in the throes of “relational equity”. My wife is definately in an emotional relationship right now, not sure if it has been consumated yet. I know the guy a bit, they are both taking a course together regarding her favourite past time, horses. In this aspect the guy has me dead to rights as he grew up with the beasts.

    But there I was for the last week, not sleeping, couldn’t focus on work, just going over and over all the bullshit that the mind loves to generate at times like this.

    “I mean my God, we have been together for 26 years, have two great sons who are turning into fantastic men, a house, a property in the country that we want to retire to. Her parents, both aged and infirm are here in this town and this guy lives 20 hours away by car. We have a healthy bank account and no mortgage or bills. Not only that, but the guy is 12 years younger then her and she turns 50 in 2 weeks! Look at all of the things we have built up together, the memories, the things, she certainly see’s the value in this and wouldn’t just walk away from it!” Etc., etc., etc.

    Going through the reasons why it would be horrible to lose her, could I stand to be on my own again at this age, do I fight for her?, confront her?, congradulate her? call this guy and ask, “you do realize that my wife is fifty? and starting menopause right?” Use logic with her, “you get that he is 20 hours away from home, been here for 6 months and is just setting you up to get laid right? There is no way in hell he is going to stay with you? No matter how NICE (according to her, everyone in the class likes him because he is so nice) he is”

    Well Sir, I read this post last night. The Scales fell from my eyes!

    All I can do is make sure the money is safe and doesn’t go walking, decide whether or not I want to invest the effort to try to hold on to her. And keep up my plan for 2013 – build the business up to where I have always wanted it, keep losing weight and working out, and keep on working on my beta-ness.

    I finally had a decent nights sleep last night Rollo. I rolled over to my side of the bed and just said “Fuck-it All” This morning the chattering masses of my mind have substantially quieted.

    I mean don’t get me wrong, if she leaves with this guy, the ego will hurt like hell, but your column was like a slap to the face, a startle, that jumped me out of the loop. I t brought perspective.

    One thing that I believe though, is that the old institution of shaming needs to make a return. The way that I see it, peer pressure is one of the few, if maybe only thing that can limit, sometimes quell, Hypergamy. Woman used to be great at shaming their peers when they strayed. Not anymore.

    So once again Sir, all I can do is say Thank-you for this post at this time, you may have saved my sanity!

  17. Rollo has saved a lot of guys with his writing, including me. I’m not super pro Alpha and great with the ladies now, but I no longer apologize for myself and who I am, thanks much to his writing. I’m a work in progress, but it’s much better “work” than my previous “work.” You deserve better, Leo, but women don’t understand this. You have to focus on yourself (which you’re doing) and forge ahead in life with courage. Good luck!

  18. Investment in your ego/identity will fuck you over in pickup down the road too, which is a funny/ironic plateau advanced guys hit that I choose to believe is the universe’s way of keeping you humble lol

    When your identity is “I’m good with women” and you’ve invested all this time and effort and energy into it and had a bunch of success and crazy adventures and your friends all tell legends about how pimp you are…next thing you know you realize you haven’t legit approached or taken a girl home in months.

    Once you’ve invested enough, your ego no longer wants to risk fucking that identity you’ve built for yourself up, so it stops you from approaching and risking getting shot down and throwing away all that investment you’ve made.

    These are usually the James Bond guys who go “look alpha” at the bar in their custom tailored suits etc but spend the night 1) not approaching, 2) chatting with their buddies, and 3) talking ABOUT approaching (lol), and 4) making up hamster rationalizations for why they aren’t approaching (these girls aren’t my type, I’m tired from work, blah blah)

    The way to get out of this plateau, much like escaping a shitty relationship, is to fuck your identity in the face and shit all over your investment lol. So you have to purposely go get shot down and make an ass of yourself and force your ego to let go of the identity so that it can see “okay, I’m not dead, the world is still here that just kind of sucked, but I guess it’s okay and now I can move on” till down the road where you go “thank god I ditched that shit that was poisoning my well-being.”…which is of course, similar to what you feel when you finally break off a shitty relationship. 🙂

  19. Thanks, @YaReally. You saved me learning the hard way. I’ve felt my confidence at nite game nudging toward coasting, toward looking the role without living it. I’m becoming a better reader, and so more selective, which I don’t know is a problem itself, but I avoided some field exercise and growth. On the other hand, I feel like the other alphas are less inclined to fight me and more inclined just to ignore me. Maybe when I hit on their girls (standing alone for a while) I am sufficiently detached from outcome that I am not threatening. I think I am smoother, entering the social bubble of others without immune system response more consistently, a good thing. I don’t know that I’ve lost my edge, but I could or could be. I need to make other nite venues and moreover day game work, so I need to step it up just for reps and make approaching the default behavior. Seduction is first platonic, so there is a smooth plausible deniability if the social dynamics are against me.

    But we are left with competing needs of a non-needy, plentiful mindset and of a hunger to grow and achieve. To be or not to be is only a question of physical outcome and perhaps mental output or intent, but certainly not of mental input. Being in the zone is a paradox: the nexus of contradictions seen in summary view of the psyche are harmoniously separated in the brain to permit counterpoint in a symphony of purpose. It would be silly to expect the reptilian brain core, the old mammal emotional inner wrap, and the new mammal logical outer wrap to follow the same melodies for the same overarching purpose of individual performance. So my point is, using a hypothesis of brain complexity, Game requires that the man simultaneously invest in himself and not invest in himself. I don’t think there is one exact line of division and balance but rather a complex of psyche balances the man who would have his life in his hands is obliged to forever regulate and apply.

    I just made that up, so it could be complete bullshit, or simply too vague to be practical. I enjoy the comment sections ’cause people I talk to in real life are boooooorrrrriiiiiiiiiing.

  20. Here’s a thought. You can only have one master. Game teaches us to choose our core selves as master investment. Other women, other people, other self-identities of alien origin and not native to our individual ids SHALL NOT BE MASTER. I am referring to Freud’s functional division of the mind. The superego is an alien that can become the imposter self. It is sick to behold, and the one time ‘be yourself’ is good advice.

  21. @ yareally – yeah, really!

    Westcoaster, thanx. Am putting my ducks in a row right now. Just got my bank card updated so that I can personnally follow the money online now, and not have to depend upon her accounting (yeah I was lazy and left all of that shit to her, BIG mistake!). Will be working on an escape plan next. Want to be ready for the nuke should it arrive.

  22. Almost talked myself out of updating the card. Spent the afternoon with the 2 of them, watching as they forged some horseshoes. This guy is very likeable, but my instincts are just screaming “Snake-in-the Grass!”

  23. “These are usually the James Bond guys who go “look alpha” at the bar in their custom tailored suits etc but spend the night 1) not approaching, 2) chatting with their buddies, and 3) talking ABOUT approaching (lol), and 4) making up hamster rationalizations for why they aren’t approaching (these girls aren’t my type, I’m tired from work, blah blah)”

    I really hate these people when they are part of your group for the simple fact that they want you fail. If a girl even shows interest and is giving signals and they pick up on it they get miffed. If you approach a girl they get silent and then they give you massive passive aggressive attacks especially if you get blown out. It’s straight bullshit. That’s why it’s better to go solo if you don’t have wingmen that are actually putting the effort themselves. Most men will delight in your failure even your so called ‘friends’.

    One negative aspect of self improvement is that I’m beginning to be a misanthrope. Improving yourself really highlights how the rest of humanity wants to keep you down. Whenever you try to accomplish something they desperately want to do but can’t, out will come the passive aggressive jabs, resentment and all that other non-sense. Also, when you see behaviors of other guys you want to punch them in the face and scream at them to wake the fuck up. After a while, all you see is a swarth of SWPL men transmorphing into a gang of lemmings diving off a cliff into the ocean.

    I wonder if there ever was another time in American history that people were so intent on seeing other people fail so intensely. I mean getting a group of from a metric standpoint successful guys jealous about another man getting attention from a normal looking girl? Have things gotten so bad? I can’t believe that in times past most men would care about such a thing. Maybe a beautiful woman but not some run of the mill chick. It’s just so damn sad.

    Things American men are good at in my area:
    1) Talking about their boring jobs but many are actually terrible at job not that it matters because their job is usually not that important
    2) Talking about sports
    3) Watching television and talking about said television
    4) Being lead around by frumpy bitchy women
    5) Keeping their weight in check by eating “diet food” at subway
    6) Buying Apple products and luxury cars
    7) Devoting every hope and dream on their kids because their life sucks so much

    American men are bad at in my area:
    1) Women (anything and everything about this subject)
    2) Being a normal weight
    3) Not being cowards except when it’s work related then they can be massive assholes

    This is what you get when you ideological castrate men while at the same time giving T shots to women and it’s not going to get better anytime soon. Maybe in a couple decades but right now it’s hell on earth for guys and if you want out of hell it’s a bit lonely in your corner of limbo.

  24. Oh man oh man oh man, I’ve take a break from RM and the mansosphere for a while to just focus on living more, but what a great post/comments to come back to.

    Mark Minter – spot on. I made that a hard and fast rule for myself long ago after seeing and hearing about too many decent guys getting the straight shaft in those situations…if a girl even starts *talking* about calling the police, she is terminated from my life permanently. No exceptions.

    YaReally – Man I have missed the delight of reading your stuff. This was one of your more insightful posts. I’ve come close to falling in the trap before because I am know to be That Guy (ladykiller) amongst my friends and family. So when a dry spell hits you’re like “oh sh!t, what happened!?” Then you should take a deep breath, laugh at yourself, and move on to something new. Your Bond description is dead on. I went to the happening spots all weekend and these dudes are ubiquitous. On one night I’m dancing with TWO attractive early twenties girls at the same time, in a place where the guy to girl ratio was like 5 to 1. It was so absurd I was laughing to myself the whole time. C’est La Vie.

    Furious Ferret ^ – Ahahahaha I felt like I just re-read Catcher in the Rye again, but for our age demographic/time. All of that is so true. The most disappointing part is when friends you grew up with choose these lives and you have to try hard not to pity/unsolicited lecture them. I went out all this past weekend solo and had a blast, and great success. One thing I noticed, and then kept noticing after the first time was fit, decent-to-good looking guys with their arms around chubby butter-faces. WTF? I’d rather be involuntarily celibate til death than settle for that. When I see a dude like that I automatically judge him as having little to no self-respect. I’m sure there are exceptions, but in my mind they only prove the rule.

    Ok got to run now, one of the aforementioned girls from this weekend is coming over in a bit. Keep up the good work fellows!

  25. Go fuck your self douche. If you understood anything about being rational, you’d know that most of what you say is just filler to prove your own conclusions about so called “ beta” males. The irony is, that by showing your own competence in this you show your own ikea effect with the red pill notion of hypergamy and solipsism of women in relation to a mans stupid nature to want to follow. You have no evidence of truth only your shallow attempt to weed out your insecurity about feeling inferior to women. You’re lack of enlightenment in this subject shows you have no real insight only a complex. You are the beta male.

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