Your World is Full of Placebo Buttons (and That’s a Good Thing)
All products and services, everything we buy and use, have but one job—to modulate our mood. The fundamental reason we use technology of relief is tantamount to actual relief. Consider the so-called placebo button.perception of all sorts, from stone tools to the latest iPhone, is to make us feel better. To prove the point, consider how
Take, for example, the lowly crosswalk button. When we find ourselves at an intersection, waiting for a light to change, we tap the button, sometimes more than once. Most people believe these buttons are connected to some master control box that will signal the light to change so we can cross the street. In truth, these buttons often do nothing.
The crosswalk button is a relic of the age before computer-controlled traffic signals. In New York City, for instance, “the city deactivated most of the pedestrian buttons long ago,” a New York Times article reported in 2004. Of the 3,250 walk buttons in the city at the time, some 2,500 were not functional. And yet, theTimes noted, when faced with the buttons, “an unwitting public continued to push.”
Then there are elevator buttons. Have you ever noticed someone pushing the call button on an elevator when it’s already lit? I must admit I’ve done it myself. Particularly when I’m in a rush, I want to make sure the button has been pressed correctly—as if there were a way to press it incorrectly. It’s a wholly irrational response, yet in the moment, I can’t help myself. When I push the