Self-generation affect effect

“If we figured it out ourselves, we like it better”

The self-generation affect effect (or the ‘not invented here – bias’ as people like Dan Ariely phrase it) is the cognitive version of the physical labor-love effect (also termed the IKEA effect). Not only does physical effort increase liking, but it also works just as well for cognitive effort… We tend to like ideas and information better when they’ve been generated by our own mind (instead of ideas that we read or hear from someone else). Even if people invest just a small amount of cognitive energy in an idea or solution, they like it much more. Not only do we like our own ideas better, but we remember them better too, see: self-generation memory effect).

Because of the self-generation affect effect, we become overly committed to our own ideas. So if you want your customer to remember and like your product, an effective strategy might be to have him generate the information himself (or parts of it).

Lego very successfully employs this tactic with their LEGO ideas product line.

Scientific research example:

Imagine that you’re thinking about solutions to the problem of water waste, specifically how communities can reduce the amount of water they use. Suddenly, Dan Ariely materializes out of thin air. He’s here to help you. He hands you a paper with 50 words, and you’re instructed to combine these words to come up with a solution. You try it, and it works! You come up with the following idea: ‘Water lawns using recycled water recovered from household drains’.

In reality, this is the one and only solution you can create from the 50 words (in that sense it’s not your idea, it’s Dan’s idea that you pieced together). Will this cognitive effort boost your liking for this solution? Ariely found that it will indeed(2010, p. 116)! You’ll like this idea more than other ideas simply because your brain generated it and put effort in it (Dan even found that just giving you the 10 words to form the sentence already boosts your liking for the idea).


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