02 November 2011

People are fascinating

I remember reading a study years ago about how often people would push the button to open the handicapped-access doors instead of actually physically opening the door. The frequency was surprisingly high. In certain places, this action was so normal that there was actually comments made about how laziness was not actually one of the physical inabilities that would cause one to need to use a handicapped-access door. Discussion also included how opening the doors with the button was a waste of energy for those healthy enough actually to open the doors.

Last Friday I sat in the hall of the Utrecht University waiting for Matthijs. In front of me was one of those buttons - and since it'd been so long since I'd seen such a button to open the handicapped-access doors, I was immediately curious. Who would press the button and who wouldn't?

Many of the students did not, in fact, press the button.... but that's only because one of their friends had pressed it, or someone immediately before them had pressed it.

Of the approximately 20 percent of people who physically touched the doors, more than half of them did so because the door that had previously been open unexpectedly started closing before they were through.

Matthijs came to get me after about 5 minutes (fyi: he did actually open the door physically). I wouldn't say he had to drag me away, but he certainly had to spend some time listening to me enthusiastically talk about the brief scientific study I had done on the door-opening. I have no doubt that I could have cheerfully stayed there for another half hour (and would have succumbed to pulling out on my pen to record things more scientifically). I just find people so fascinating.

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