Battle of the Sexes: Furniture Assembly Edition

The battle of the sexes is fought every day in homes across the world, and the do-it-yourselfers are no exception. After many decades of arguments over TV stands and coffee tables, one question still needed an answer: who is better at assembling flat-pack furniture – men or women?

Back in 2008, Petra Hesser — who at the time was the head of the German furniture company IKEA –made a controversial claim that women were ultimately better than men at assembling IKEA furniture. But was it true?

Recently, a group of Norwegian psychologists wanted to get to the bottom of this question with hard science. If Hesser’s statement was true, it would contradict many years spatial skills test data that show men outperform women on average — which is what most people expect when it comes to furniture assembly. The researchers at The Arctic University of Norway put Hesser’s theory to the test and found out once and for all which sex reigns supreme at assembling furniture.

The researchers gathered a group of 40 women and 40 men to both assemble an IKEA kitchen trolley. The team also wanted to assess the importance of step by step directions vs. diagrams, so they split the groups into subgroups, one receiving only directions and the other only a diagram of the finished product.

The results? It turns out Petra Hesser was wrong. Men assembled the furniture faster than the women – and more accurately. With the aid of instructions, it took an average of 22.48 minutes of assembly time for men, and 23.65 for women to complete the trolley. Both men and women spent longer assembling when they only had the diagram and no instructions, but men still came out on top. Sorry ladies.

The researchers did note that the difference was minuscule, stating: “Aside from the time spent on instructions, women assembled the furniture nearly as fast as men did, and the sex difference in assembly score could be explained by differences in individual spatial ability.”

Men do technically win, but only by a sliver. But let’s be honest, the real winner is the one who picks out the best piece of furniture, right? Game on!

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