Men are better at assembling flat-pack furniture than women, say Norwegian psychologists

Men completed the task faster than women without instructions

Jess Staufenberg
Friday 04 December 2015 10:43
Women took one minute longer than men to assemble furniture with instructions, according to a test conducted by a Norwegian university
Women took one minute longer than men to assemble furniture with instructions, according to a test conducted by a Norwegian university

Men are better at assembling flat pack furniture - especially without instructions - than women, a new report says, contrary to claims made by the head of Ikea.

Psychologists in Norway decided to test the assertions made by Petra Hesser, head of IKEA in Germany, in 2008 that women are better than men at assembling flat-pack furniture because they read the instructions carefully.

And while women do appear to read the instructions more than men, according to the results of their experiment, men could still perform the task faster and more accurately than women without them, the researchers said.

Scientists at UiT The Arctic University of Norway tested 40 men and 40 women, all university students, on how quickly and accurately they could construct a kitchen trolley.

Half the group had to build the trolley with instructions, and half without. All reported having similar levels of experience with furniture assembly.

Men took on average one minute less than women to build the trolley with instructions (22.48 minutes compared to 23.65 minutes).

And they took on average four minutes less than women to do so without any instructions at all (24.80 minutes compared to 28.44 minutes).

So women appeared to benefit more than men from having instructions, said the psychologists, since they sped up by about 4.5 minutes when using them - while men only sped up by about one minute with instructions.

The researchers said that, accounting for all factors, women's performance with instructions was almost as good as men's performance without.

This apparent ability to construct furniture without instructions might be down to the men's greater ability for mental rotation. This spatial imagination may make them less dependent on the instructions than women, suggested lead author Susanne Wiking.

The study, published in the Applied Cognitive Psychology journal, can not be taken as conclusive, according to Research Digest.

"This research should not be taken as the final word on men's and women's furniture assembly abilities," it said.

"Not only was this a small student sample in Norway, meaning we can't necessarily generalise to all men and women, but there are other factors.

"For example, men are known to be inclined to greater competitiveness than women, so perhaps they were more motivated."

Sex differences in spatial ability have been debated by scientists for years, with different results emerging depending on the tests used.

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