The Close Door Buttons On Elevators Do Absolutely Nothing At All


Robin Andrews

Science & Policy Writer


Don't worry, the open door button still works. Not everything you know is a lie. AwayIGI/Shutterstock

Conspiracy theories are everywhere these days, and almost all of them are completely unfounded. No, the Moon landings weren’t faked. No, vaccines aren’t a way for the government to control population numbers. No, climate change isn’t a Chinese hoax.

Actually, if any conspiracy theories are true, it’s the ones linked to the smallest things in life. As reported by the New York Times, if you’ve always been convinced that the close door buttons in elevators were nothing but a placebo, then you’d be right.


The executive director of the National Elevator Industry trade group revealed last week that the close door button has been disabled on all US elevators for a considerably long time. Thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act passed in 1990, the law requires that elevator doors remain open long enough for anyone that uses walking aids or a wheelchair to get inside safely.

As most elevators have a lifespan of around 25 years, it’s likely that very few still exist with working close door buttons.

Just recently, many were shocked to find out that the buttons on traffic crossings are almost always non-functional. This new announcement will only serve to exacerbate humanity’s distrust in buttons.

John Kounios, a professor of psychology at Philadelphia’s Drexel University, told the NYT that the “white lie” of the close door button is harmless, as it gives us the brief illusion of control. “A perceived lack of control is associated with depression, so perhaps this is mildly therapeutic,” he noted.


Nevertheless, this bombshell of a revelation will likely frustrate those who have long considered elevators to be far too laissez-faire when it comes to transporting people up and down buildings.


We’ve all been there. That coworker you just can’t stand – you know the one – is speeding towards you in the elevator, where you are the sole occupant. To the left is the altruistic, empathy-inducing button that will keep the doors open. To the right is the hardline close doors button.

You ponder on it, and you decide that you really don’t care if that coworker stampeding towards you has to run down a huge flight of stairs. They knocked over your coffee earlier. Now, they will reap the whirlwind.

You furiously stab the close door button with the palm of your hand, and to your dismay, you find that nothing immediately happens. Your workplace associate breathlessly dives into the elevator and thanks you for holding the doors. You fire a forced smile their way, and down you both go, your day made ever so slightly worse as a result.


For those who are a little more forgiving, you’ll be pleased to know that the open door buttons are fully functional.

[H/T: New York Times]


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