Why We Love the Crap We Make, or The Grand Unifying Theory of Regretsy

By Veronique Greenwood | January 9, 2012 11:30 am

fuzzy flipflops
Handmade! And priceless!

Your grandma’s day-glo knitted sweaters are proof: People love the stuff they make, even when what they make is a disaster. It’s a weird little corner of human psychology studied by behavioral economist Michael Norton, who dubs it the IKEA phenomenon, having observed in his own studies that people love the IKEA boxes they assembled themselves more than the identical IKEA boxes assembled by some other dude, and that people consider their wretched origami animals valuable works of art while others call them “nearly worthless crumpled paper.” He speculates that it may be the pride of accomplishment that makes people behave this way, or some warped sense that anything that took more work to make is inherently better.

But anyone who’s wasted a perfectly good Saturday working on a BEKVÄM can tell you that it ain’t love or pride that keeps you from throwing that thing out the window—it’s the fear of having to do it all over again. No, forget IKEA: a better name for this quirk of the mind is the Regretsy phenomenon. Etsy is an online marketplace for people selling handmade objects; Regretsy is the blog that documents the spectacular delusions of the sellers of such objects as these sock-encrusted lampshades.In the (rather polite) New Scientist article covering this research, Laura Spinney shows she is wise to this alternate formulation:

Something similar may also help to explain why in many spheres we are seeing a return to the cult of the artisan. These days there are websites where you can pay more to do more, from mixing your own muesli to designing your own T-shirt…Schreier’s lab experiments have shown that people are willing to pay twice as much for a product they have customised than for an identical, off-the-peg one—and the perceived increase in value is attributable in roughly equal parts to preference fit and effort investment.

A similar sentiment is expressed by Kelly Herd, a professor of marketing interviewed by Spinney: “People create pretty objectively unattractive stuff, but they love it,” she says. Hear, hear, Kelly. We think you’d like our new name for this phenomenon.

[via New Scientist]

Image courtesy of lisaclarke / flickr

CATEGORIZED UNDER: What’s Inside Your Brain?
  • fluffyunicorn


    • pissyunicorn

      Awww come on – no FIRST?

      • fluffyunicorn


        • http://twitter.com/pearlheartgtr pearlheartgtr

          Because we can.

        • fluffyunicorn

          Drama Llama GO!

        • littlewidget

          I think that should be S**TTING… 😉

        • fluffyunicorn

          HA! I would like to say that was on purpose but I’d be lying. :)

    • http://www.caboosterkit.com/ PBCGE

      CF4L, indeed!

  • Thunderkuntz


  • Jenna

    And in Discover Mag. no doubt… that’s fantastic, Regretsy! Win for the FJL!

  • Miss S.

    I usually hate the crap that I make… 

  • http://www.lighthartstudios.com/catalog G Val

    CF4L, baby!

  • Wgqwergaerg

    CF4L… You can change the size of it’s smell!

    • Derpine


      • MnDina

        I hope this article didn’t rape anyone’s dreams because I’m sure they’re not afraid to use a layer.


  • http://www.catherineblakeney.com Catherine Blakeney

    It also has to do with the value of your own time as a measure of wealth.  I could have paid forty bucks to buy a cross stitch for my best friend’s graduation from vet school.  Instead, I spent three years working on one from a kit when I had time, and then paid for a custom framing.  The result was not only something quite beautiful, but a labor of love and an investment of over a hundred hours of my time.  As a gift, it had more meaning than anything I could have bought from a store (and she now has it hanging in her office.)  With the Etsy and  Regretsy works, it’s pretty easy to tell who seriously invested time in what they are selling and who spent ten minutes gluing crap together and calling it art. 

  • Kimc

    I thought they discovered this phenomenon years ago — when they first made cake mixes, and people liked them a lot better if they had to add an egg than if they didn’t. 

    • janicemars

      Now that is truly exciting.  I would LOVE to know more, but where does one find these experiments and their results? And what were the results on the monetary effects of gluing moustaches on things? Any idea?

    • Postmenopaws

      They like their cake mixes even more…a whole LOT more…as in REALLY REALLY…if they have to add sperm instead of egg.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jgravitt Jeanine Lubbers Gravitt

    CF4L  Level 4 Cats Unite!

    • cybelesque

      I gotta admit it – every time I make another whimsicle Level 4 Catastrophe I feel all creamy!

  • I am outraged…

    I am surprised that such a respected magazine like Discover is writing articles about this topic. They should be covering events and issues that aren’t so frivolous. Don’t they know that people are DYING of COMMUNISM?!

    • wittyKitty

      They made this article in their artistic ability. Your just a hater and fat jelous looser.

  • Anonymous

    Lame article.


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