In a groundbreaking study published by the Stanford Psychology Department last month, researchers found that nearly three-fourths of people who utilize the handicap door button are not physically disabled.
Multiple hypotheses have emerged in light of this finding, which range from the relatively mundane – people like the convenience that the automatic button provides – to the more ambitious and philosophical – people like to pretend they are Jedis who can use the Force to automatically open doors .
One subject, who prefers to remain anonymous due to the ethical implications of the study, reported, “It simply boils down to the aesthetics of the button. If you place a shiny silver button in front of me, it’s not like I’m about to pass up the opportunity to touch it.”
One group of psychologists attempted to connect the findings of this study to the more general Push-Pull Ambiguity Hypothesis, which states that the uncertainty of whether one is supposed to push or pull on an approaching door handle is a leading source of social anxiety. As Dr. Paul Browning explains, “Our understanding of the Push-Pull Ambiguity Hypothesis helps explain the critical results of this new study. By pushing the button, the uncertainty of whether the door is of the push or pull variety is eliminated because the door will open in the correct direction automatically.”
Preliminary results from a follow-up study indicate that people who use the handicap door button are also 34% more likely to impatiently press the Close Door button on elevators and to repeatedly press the crosswalk button at intersections. These behaviors tend to persist despite the preponderance of scientific data that suggest neither of these actions has a statistically significant impact on the speed of elevator doors or the pattern of the traffic lights, respectively.