Some of the buttons we use every day don't actually do anything. These are known as, "placebo buttons." The placebo effect is when you psychologically believe that something works when in actuality it makes no difference. The most common example is taking a sugar pill instead of actual treatment and believing it to work, but this also happens with the buttons we push every day.
These buttons are placed to make us feel like we're in control of something, when we really aren't. Surprisingly, you probably see this every day and had no idea. Here are four things you use every day that don't even work.
1. Elevator close doors button.
Ever notice that the elevator open button works a lot faster than the close one? That's because the close button doesn't do anything at all.
Before 1990, these buttons actually had a purpose, but not after that. In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, elevator doors must stay open long enough for someone in a wheelchair, or using a cane, to board. Firefighters and maintenance workers are the only ones who can actually make the doors close faster, by using an override code or a key.
Elevators are still manufactured with these buttons to give the user the placebo effect. Perceived control is very important because it diminishes stress and promotes well being.
2. Progress bar on computers.
You might have figured this one out by watching the bar sit at 99% completion for 30 minutes. These don't actually work because computers don't really have a clear idea as to how long your download will take. Download speed fluctuates depending on file size, internet speed and file server activity.
So, your computer can't give you an accurate time estimation because it really has no idea. Most bars go half way completed relatively fast, then work their way to 99% and tend to sit there until it's actually completed.
So, why do they add them at all? It is again, the placebo effect, but also it is to let you know that your download is in progress and working. If we didn't have that bar we would probably try to re-download it 30 times because we didn't know if it worked or not.
3. Crosswalk buttons.
Unlike other buttons, the crosswalk button was actually manufactured to work how we think it does. Unfortunately, the majority of these buttons don't do anything in most cities and haven't for decades.
They don't work anymore because most cities have switched to computerized traffic lights. With computerized traffic lights, they are automatic and therefore switch on a timer. This makes crosswalk buttons useless.
So, why not get rid of them? Most cities leave them because it would be way too expensive and take too long to remove every button. Don't rule them out completely, some still work depending on the type of traffic light.
4. Office thermostats.
Those thermostats on the wall at your office? Yeah, those don't do anything. Most offices use a HVAC system throughout the entire building. This controls the heating, ventilation and air conditioning throughout the office and regulates the temperature.
The little boxes that you think are the thermostat are actually known as "dummy thermostats." Offices have these to let the employees feel like they can control the temperature. They mostly do this because when employees feel like they are in control, they are less likely to complain about the temperature of the office.