Useless buttons are everywhere
The "close-door" button in the elevator, the crosswalk button at the intersection, even the thermostat in your office — there's a good chance that they're all placebos. Over the last 20 years or so, many of these buttons have become technically useless, left in place both because it's expensive to replace existing equipment and because, psychologically, they still serve a purpose. To keep you placated.
Flip a switch and the light comes on, press the elevator button, it lights up. You press the button on the vending machine; a soft drink comes down the chute. Press a button at cross walk and eventually the light changes. We have been conditioned just like Pavlov's dogs, we may not be drooling, (at least I'm not drooling, not sure about you) but we are confident that when we hit a switch something is going to happen. When approaching a crosswalk, do you press the button; even though you just saw someone else press the button? Alternatively, maybe you press and hold that button; this is a surefire way to let the circuit that you are in a hurry. Perhaps you are one of those who press it repeatedly; this will certainly give the circuit a sense of urgency.
Would it surprise you to learn that many of these buttons are not connected to the traffic light? That’s how conditioning works. As long as you get the result you were looking for when you pressed the button, it doesn’t matter if the button did anything. You will keep on pressing those buttons. Then there is the Close Door button in elevators. According to a 2008 article in the New Yorker, close door buttons haven't closed elevator doors in many elevators built in the United States since the 1990s. AT least the button is still there and we are not quite bright enough to catch on. The door does close and maybe if I had just pressed it harder, or longer, or repeatedly, the door would have closed more quickly. All those heroes/bad guys in the movies who escaped certain destruction by hopping in an elevator just had no help from the close door button. As long as the door closes after we press the close door button, we think we controlled it so we will continue pressing buttons. Pavlov must be laughing in his grave.
Only One Button
In an investigation by ABC news in 2010, only one functioning crosswalk button could be found in Austin, Texas; Gainesville, Fla.; and Syracuse, NY. (Hey, I used to work in Gainesville and I pressed those placebo buttons many times. Maybe my button was the one that actually did something) "The city (of Syracuse) deactivated most of the pedestrian buttons long ago with the emergence of computer-controlled traffic signals", NYT.
Control the temperature
We, at least you can control the temperature in your office, assuming you are one of the lucky ones to have a thermostat in your cubicle/office/kitchen/store. In my career, I have had a couple of kitchens with actual thermostats present. I would see a menagerie of cooks and waiters paying homage to the God of hot and cold, adjusting the temperature over and over again. The temperature never seemed to change and the staff didn't seem to be causing any harm so I learned to ignore the folly.
From the Wall Street Journal:
HVAC experts acknowledge what millions of office workers have suspected all along: A lot of office thermostats are completely fake -- meant to dupe you into thinking you've altered the office weather conditions.
The specialists are unrepentant. Fed up with of complaints from sweaty men and shivering women, HVAC technicians install dummy thermostats to give workers the illusion of control. In some leased buildings, even the corporate tenants don't know the thermostats are useless. Other times, it's the companies themselves, barraged with calls from workers, who ask the landlord's HVAC technicians to "fix" things.
Push Buttor, Receive Bacon
If you do have a working thermostat it's probably locked, or encased behind shatterproof glass. Clever employees are not above a bag of tricks. Want more heat? Try hanging a bag of ice around the thermostat. More AC? Warm the thermostat with a candle or disposable lighter, try not to set the place on fire.
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