There's a Scientific Reason Why Your Boyfriend Is Good at Putting Together Ikea Furniture

Source: AP
Source: AP

Poor men! They get so few privileges in life. They're constantly being forced to question whether or not they can have it all. Their reproductive rights are regularly under attack. And feminists are always trying to threaten their masculinity.

Finally, though, science is validating a natural advantage men have over their female counterparts: They're really, really good at putting together Ikea furniture. 

After spending the better part of the past century wondering who reigns supreme when it comes to assembling Swedish flat-pack furniture, researchers at the University of Tromsø in Norway found evidence for the long-held belief that men are better than women at performing spatial tasks, like putting together, say, a Råskog or a ready-to-assemble kitchen trolley. Good for you, guys! Way to overcome centuries of cultural oppression!

Source: IKEA/Mic

The study: In a study of 80 young adults divided into two groups (one with Ikea's notoriously impenetrable assembly instructions, the other without), men put together a little rolling cart more accurately and faster on average than women. Surprisingly, the experiment was inspired by Ikea itself, after the researchers decided to test a theory initially posed by Petra Hessler, formerly the head of Ikea's Germany division.

Hessler told Deutsche Presse-Agentur she suspected that men actually had a harder time assembling the company's furniture than women did. "Men never look at the instruction leaflet and have the most problems when assembling our furniture because they think they can do it without help," Hessler said.  "A woman will neatly lay out all the screws while a man will throw them in a pile... Something always goes missing."

So in an epic fact-checking effort, the Norwegian researchers divided 40 college-age men and 40 college-age women into smaller groups to see how well they followed directions, as well as how spatially perceptive they were. In the group that was given a step-by-step assembly manual for the kitchen cart, men got the job done 10% faster than women (22.48 minutes compared to 24.80 minutes). 

In the group that was provided only an image of the final product, however, men came in at 23.65 minutes compared to women's 28.4 minutes, thus finishing faster. (But hey, don't they always?). 

Source: Giphy

Cool kitchen cart, bro: Clearly, the study has its flaws. The researchers noted its relatively small sample size and the fact that it only measures one age group, but as the Washington Post points out, it's also crucial to remember that theories about men's and women's spatial perception tend to be chicken-or-egg. Men have been shown to be better on average at mentally picturing shapes, but the trait itself varies widely among individuals. Some women are better at spatial tasks than other women, but they're also better than a lot of men. 

It's hard enough to tell when traits are socialized or if they're inherent to men or women, though that's getting a little easier to parse: Another team of researchers recently used brain scans to illustrate that men's and women's brains actually aren't that different. Previous studies have also concluded that when it comes to certain tasks, particularly those involving spatial cognition, confidence plays a huge role in eventual achievement. 

So, it could be that men are good at screwing together plywood bookshelves because society has spent so much time telling them they are, and not because they have some evolutionary advantage over women. But let's be honest: Maybe the advantage is for women to avoid tasks that leave most grown adults sputtering curse words and throwing lacquered table legs in frustration, and instead just leave that stuff to the boys. 

h/t the Cut

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Jenny Kutner

Jenny Kutner is a senior reporter at Mic, covering feminism, reproductive justice and sexual violence. She is a native Texan based in New York. Send tips or friendly messages to jenny@mic.com.

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