NEW YORK (CBS) – Pushing that “door close” button won’t make your next elevator trip any faster.

The head of the National Elevator Industry, Karen Penafiel, confirmed to The New York Times in a recent article that functional close-door buttons have been phased out since the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act in 1990 (Door open buttons still work). Federal law requires that the doors stay open long enough for those with crutches or a wheelchair to get in the elevator.

“The riding public would not be able to make those doors close any faster,” Penafiel told The Times.

And the newspaper notes this is not the only example of placebos “that promote an illusion of control but that in reality do not work.”

Signs may tell pedestrians to push a button and wait for the walk signal, but The Times reports that most of those buttons were deactivated more than a decade ago as computer-controlled traffic signals became more popular.

Additionally, some workplaces have installed “dummy thermostats,” according to The Times, and that has cut down on complaints about the temperature in the office.

So why does placebo technology exist? It all comes down to mental health, one local expert says.

“Perceived control is very important,” Harvard University psychology professor Ellen Langer tells The Times. “It diminishes stress and promotes well being.”

Comments
  1. David Keith says:

    “‘Perceived control is very important … ‘It diminishes stress and promotes well being.’ ”

    This happens in politics too; they let us vote. Then the “powers that be” (such as The Electoral College or The Supreme Court) decide who wins.

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