Things You Think That Work, That Don’t

Cos

Leave it to Yahoo to prove to me what I’ve always thought was true. I’ve always been under the assumption that the Walk button found on most city (or town) intersections had no real power at all. I’ve seen people argue with each other over why they hadn’t pushed the button “we could be across the street by now!” and I just figured it didn’t work. I had the “I KNEW IT!” reaction when I saw it on the Yahoo main page.

The one that I am notorious for pushing is the Elevator Close Door Button, which I’ve literally gone ape shit on because the doors haven’t closed fast enough. Sigh…making me look like a fool.

Below are the two that I mentioned to you from Yahoo:

 

5 Things You Think Work, But Actually Don’t

by Matt Brownell
Sunday, October 9, 2011

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Most people are well aware of the placebo effect as it pertains to medicine. The idea is that simply thinking that a treatment will cure your symptoms is sometimes enough to make that treatment take effect. For instance, a patient who thinks he’s taking Advil for a headache may see his headache go away even if he’s swallowing a sugar pill meant to look like a painkiller. The effect is powerful enough that control groups in scientific studies of a treatment’s effectiveness will be given a dummy treatment to control for the effect.

But the placebo effect is by no means limited to medicine. In our daily lives we constantly encounter situations where products or services don’t work as promised. Yet far from stomping off to complain to someone, we instead come away convinced that the button we were pressing was doing exactly what it said it would. If a button says it will close the elevator doors but doesn’t appear to have the desired effect, we still find a way to convince ourselves that it was doing what it said it would.

“Don’t assume self-delusion is always willful or conscious,” says David McRaney, author of You Are Not So Smart, a book about self-delusion. “We often engage in something called confabulation, which is basically making up a story we can believe in to explain away behavior we don’t understand… We are very good at pattern recognition, and whether or not we have the story correct as to what is causing the pattern, we naturally learn to associate cause and effect.”

In other words, if the button says it will close the elevator doors, and the elevator doors don’t close until we’ve been pushing it for 20 seconds, we still manage to convince ourselves that our actions brought about the outcome. It’s just like the guy who takes the sugar pill labeled “Advil” — when the headache goes away on its own after a couple of hours, he convinces himself that it was the pill that did the trick.

Here a few examples of how this phenomenon affects us on a daily basis.

The Elevator “Close Doors” Button

Let’s start with the most obvious example: That pesky “close doors” button on the elevator. It’s a fairly well-established fact that on most elevators it’s what essentially amounts to a dummy button.

But it’s not as if elevator manufacturers are installing an extra button just to give you an illusion of control. Indeed, McRaney says the button can be activated, but only by certain people.

“The close buttons don’t close the elevator doors in most elevators built in the United States since the Americans with Disabilities Act,” explains McRaney. “The button is there for workers and emergency personnel to use, and it only works with a key.”

Sure, they could put a sign on the panel explaining the situation to elevator riders, but as McRaney points out, it’s hard to justify the time and money it would take. And besides, we’d probably keep pressing it anyway, convinced that this time it will work.

Walk Signal ButtonsMany cities and towns have buttons at crosswalks that allow a pedestrian to speed up the arrival of a walk signal. And in many places, they do exactly what they promise to do.

But not everywhere.

The City of New York admitted several years ago that most of the “push button, wait for walk signal” buttons were no longer active, having long ago been replaced by automated systems that keep all the lights on a set timer. That makes them placebo buttons just like the close door buttons on an elevator.

“Just as with the elevators, it would be expensive to replace or remove all of the non-functioning buttons or to inform the public through some sort of media campaign,” explains McRaney. “There is no obvious harm in letting the people in your town keep impotently jamming crosswalk buttons.”

And many people will keep pushing away — perhaps a holdover from a time when they remember the buttons working, or perhaps because occasionally they’ll get lucky and the light will change right after they push.

Again, in many municipalities these buttons actually do work. In 2008, an investigation by Canada.com found that there weren’t any such placebo buttons in Victoria, Canada, though city officials admitted that the buttons varied in effectiveness.

To read the rest go to: Yahoo

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