Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Things That You Think Work But They Don't Really

You've read about placebos, haven't you? The sugar pills they give to certain segments of a drug study to see if the real deal really works or if just thinking you get the real deal helps you? They work on the principle that sometimes just thinking something will make you feel better actually will. This involves something called confabulation, which is a fancy word for making up a believable excuse to explain something we don't understand. I guess mothers have been doing it for eons -- blaming everything on teething. Junior cried all night? He's teething. Sally cried at her birthday party? She's teething. Tommy flunked out of college? He's... uh, no.

And here are some examples of things you think work but they don't really.

The Elevator "Close Doors" Button

Color me stunned to learn it's really a dummy button. Well, it CAN be used, but only by the right person who has a key. Maybe it's to give passengers the illusion of control? The article said they could put up a sign explaining it doesn't do anything, but that would cost money and there'd still be folks who push it, convinced the sign is part of a government conspiracy to take away elevator door rights.

High-Def TV

In order to really get a high definition picture, you not only have to have a high-def television, you have to watch a high-def channel and have high-def service and everything hooked up correctly. But according to a Dutch study, when folks were shown identical video clips on different TVs but were told one was high-def and the other was a standard TV), the viewers overwhelmingly said the "high-def" picture was better.

Walk Signal Buttons

In many cities, crosswalks have buttons to allow pedestrians to make the WALK signal come on. But in New York City, officials admitted several years ago they'd deactivated the buttons and put all traffic lights on an automated system. The WALK signals in the Big Apple are like the CLOSE DOOR buttons on elevators.

Leg and Fanny Toning Shoes

I'm sure you've seen the shoes with curved soles that claim to tone up your legs and fanny. Well... the Federal Trade Commission just ordered a major shoe manufacturer to pay twenty-five milllion dollars in refunds to customers for whom the claim didn't work. Despite this FTC ruling, many of the shoe's purchasers sing their praises. Confabulation perhaps?

Office Thermostats

In my office, we have a definite heating and cooling problem. Areas of the building (which has a reception area, two conference rooms, a break room, three storage rooms, a file room and offices for the three attorneys, two paralegals and me) get too hot in the afternoon and we have to adjust the thermostat.

But can you imagine the results if a company in a fifty-story office building let employees adjust the thermostat on a whim? That would be a utility bill catastrophe. "Just lock up the thermostat," you say. But then the employees would complain.

So what do they do? They go to the fake elevator button people and order a fake thermostat. The buttons work, the digital numbers go up and down but it's not connected to the heating and air conditioning system. Yet the employees are happy because they think they're making the office hotter or colder.

More confabulation.

I guess I'll stop pushing the close-the-elevator-door button now. I have a high-def TV AND high-def cables so I'm really seeing high-def broadcasts. I don't have to cross too many streets in my daily life. I never thought those shoes worked anyway. And as I said, the thermostat in my office really does work.

Are you surprised to learn these things? Or did you already know and I was the only one who was taken aback about the close-the-elevator-door button?


Instigator said...

Crap! I'm constantly hitting the close door button on the elevator. I guess I'll stop doing that now. :-) Actually, I probably won't because it's instinct.


Jean Hovey said...

I can tell the difference in a High def TV. However, a boom box doesn't sound much different from a home theater system.

Smarty Pants said...

I think unless you sit a tv or a sound system side by side, the differences are sublte. I read somwehere that the human eye really can't distinguish between 720 and 1080p on the average tv. At my house, we are all tricked out, though. Have the HDTV, the HD service, the HD programming... it better be noticible for all it costs.

Maven Linda said...

I knew about the elevator door "close" button -- but I still catch myself pushing it anyway, on the assumption that I've somehow done something to the elevator electronics and I might -- what? somehow fix it by punching yet another button?

Angel said...

Wow. I'm totally bummed now.

Just kidding. :) But yeah, these really surprised me. I had no idea -- and I'm definitely a Close Door button pusher.

Kind of reminds me of my children. When the computer isn't moving fast enough, they think they can speed up the process by clicking on whatever button over and over and over and... Sigh. Drives me crazy.

PM's Mother said...

At the risk of offending somebody -- anybody -- nobody -- it kinda reminds me of some people I know.

Anonymous said...

LOL. Really enjoyed this post. Yes, I push the close door button, too.