NEW YORK ( MainStreet) -- Most people are aware of the placebo effect in medicine -- the idea that simply thinking a treatment will cure your symptoms is sometimes enough to make that treatment work. 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 encounter situations constantly in which products or services don't work as promised. Yet far from stomping off to complain, we instead come away convinced 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 it was doing what it said it would.
|From elevator close buttons to butt-toning shoes, we can unknowingly encounter the placebo effect in everyday life.|
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," McRaney explains. "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.