Have you ever hit the "Close Door" button in the elevator to no avail? Or the "Push to Cross" button at a crosswalk, only to wait five more minutes for the signal to change? It turns out that these buttons -- and others you encounter on a daily basis -- don't typically do anything. They're essentially placebos that give us a sense of control in our daily lives.
According to The New York Times, many everyday buttons only give people the illusion of control. In reality, these buttons are useless. The source provides several examples of buttons that don't typically work, including elevator door-close buttons, crosswalk signal buttons and office thermostat controls.
Why so many placebo buttons? Some used to work -- for instance, close-door functions had to be disabled after the the Americans With Disabilities Act was passed -- but others are just there to give people a sense of control.
"Perceived control is very important," Ellen Langer, a psychology professor at Harvard University, explained to The New York Times. "It diminishes stress and promotes well being."
If it makes you feel better, go ahead and push that button... just don't be surprised if it doesn't do much.