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A Labor of Love, or Love Via Labor?

• February 12, 2013 • 9:20 AM

That’s a fine IKEA bookshelf you’ve made there, and those crooked shelves are actually just the way an artisan would inject some charm! A look at the IKEA Effect—plus, six other deadly sins in the news this week.

Pride

Do you find yourself showing off that recently constructed wardrobe? Maybe the shelves don’t line up and you would never place the vase holding grandmother’s ashes on one of them, but you built it with your own two hands and love it like people love their ugly dogs. If this rings true, you might exemplify the “Ikea Effect”—the idea that labor itself leads to love.

NPR’s Shankar Vedantam reported this week on work by researchers from Harvard, the University of California, San Diego, and Duke who examined why, when people assembled IKEA products, their DIY attempts gave them a surge of confidence. Participants sometimes felt their craft-by-numbers work rivaled that of experts, and were disappointed when others did not share this perception. (The “IKEA Effect” quickly dissipated in cases when their creations fell apart.) The builders’ affection for their creations, the academics suggest, follows not from the innate perfection of say, a Poang chair, but from the effort that went into making it.

This pride felt by screwdriver and glue laden consumers may explain the popularity of the Swedish retail powerhouse–the act of constructing brings us back for more.

Lust

Speaking at the 24th APS Annual Convention, professor Elaine C. Hatfield offered some insights on the notion of passionate love – such as we can watch it using fMRI technology. The euphoria of love lights up the same brain areas illuminated by another obsession–drug addiction.

Gluttony

Did fiscal cliff woes have you grabbing for a bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos? Blame your impulsive brain. A new study claims that a perception of tough times is accompanied by seeking out junk food. When our primal “live for today” impulses are triggered, study participants consumed 40 percent more food than they would in a more neutral state. And not just any food — when researchers told their subjects their snacks were low-calorie, they consumed roughly 25 percent less.

Greed

You might think fewer hunters would be good for ducks, but federal funding to buy and lease their habitat is dependent on the revenue raised by selling duck stamps (the license needed to hunt). But with duck hunting losing its popularity, Mark Vrtiska of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission predicts $14.3 million may be lost annually compared to the current take. A tough break for the ducks, and certainly a tough call for wildlife advocates.

Sloth

It’s a claim cubicle-hating environmentalists have been hoping for–vacations may slow global warming. The Center for Economic Policy and Research claims that by switching to a “more European” work schedules–meaning fewer hours in the office and more hours sipping wine in the countryside—the world could prevent half of the expected temperature rise by 2100. How? As businesses that consume lots of energy reduce their hours, fewer greenhouse gases will be generated. While there may be a few bones to pick with the thesis – telecommuting, anyone– but you might still bring it up at the next staff meeting.

Wrath

New research from the University of New Hampshire reveals that abusive bosses not only affect their targets, but also everyone else in the office. The negative work environment has a “second hand” effect on the co-workers of the tormented; vicarious abuse leads falling morale in the workplace and may lead other employees to take up bullying themselves.

Envy

If the popularity of HBO’s series Girls is any inclination, being in your 20s isn’t always a golden age. America’s young adults may be itching to jump years down the line, when they hope to be more financially secure and confident in their careers. This is certainly reflected in the recent national Stress in America survey, where 39 percent of adults 18-33 reported their stress level has increased this past year, compared to 29 percent of those 67 or older. Still, stress overall may be declining in the U.S.: 20 percent of adults reported extreme stress in 2012, compared to 24 percent two years earlier.

Sarah Sloat
Sarah Sloat is an editorial fellow with Pacific Standard. She was previously selected as an intern for the Sara Miller McCune Endowed Internship and Public Service Program and has studied abroad in both Argentina and the U.K. Sarah has recently graduated from the University of California-Santa Barbara with a degree in Global and International Studies. Follow her on Twitter @sarahshmee.

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