Ruining Saturdays everywhere

Science tries to settle debate over who’s best at assembling IKEA furniture

The exterior of an IKEA store ( JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP/Getty Images)

In 2008, Petra Hesser, head of IKEA in Germany, claimed that women were better at assembling her company’s flat-pack furniture, because they read the instructions more carefully. When psychologists at UiT The Arctic University of Norway heard this sweeping generalization, they decided to test Hesser’s claim against real scientific research. The scientists gathered 40 male and 40 female university students, testing how quickly and accurately they assembled a kitchen trolley, both with and without instructions. The result? While it’s true that women read the instructions more closely, men still performed the task faster and more accurately than women — even without the instructions. In the group of students who had the instructions, men assembled the trolley on average 1 minute faster than women (22.48 vs 23.65 minutes), while in the group which had no instructions, men outpaced women by 4 minutes (24.80 vs 28.44 minutes).

According to the researchers, with all factors accounted for, women did almost as good a job with instructions as men did without. While the scientists theorize that this might have something to do with men’s greater spatial imagination, they also believe other factors could be at play — such as men being more competitive —  and warned that the small sample size is not necessarily representative. So don’t let this study fuel any domestic disputes: as the researchers write, their findings “should not be taken as the final word on men’s and women’s furniture assembly abilities.”

Read the full story at The Independent.

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