Have you ever pressed the closed button in an elevator? Or, have you played with an office thermostat because you were either too hot or too cold? Or, did you press the “walk” button on the crosswalk this morning? Did it work? If so, you’ve been deceived. Indeed, Placebo Button is a Countermeasure to Some Problems.
Since we are psychological creatures, the solution to some of our problems might not actually solve our problems – we just think they do. Such is the case with placebo buttons.
What is a Placebo Button?
A Placebo Button is a device that when activated – turned on, turned off, pressed, depressed – actually does nothing. We just think it does. In effect, if we are cold, the countermeasure is to turn up the heat. When we actually do turn up the heat on the office thermostat, nothing happens but we feel warmer. It turns out that those within the HVAC industry understand this practice well. By some accounts, over 50% of office thermostats actually do not work and over 90% of elevator buttons to close the elevator actually do not work either.
Indeed, those within the HVAC industry have exclaimed:
[HVAC Technician] always said that “thermal comfort is 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical.”
And, the placebo effect is producing some very real results. Consider this reduction in service calls 1:
“The people in the area ‘felt’ better that they could now control the temp in their area. This cut down the number of service calls by over 75 percent,” wrote David Trimble of Ft. Collins, Colorado.
“The dummy stat did nothing except to give the occupants the impression that they had control of the HVAC system,” Langless wrote, “and the psychological effect of having control of their work environment. Our service calls disappeared, and to my knowledge, that system is still set up and working as it has since 1987.”
In a way, placebo buttons give the illusion of control and they also pacify our desire to quickly jump to solutions. To our dismay, these buttons we’ve been pressing all along don’t actually do anything. But, we think they have and we’re complaining less about the problem.
- http://www.achrnews.com/articles/placebo-stats ↩