the psychology of elevators

I travel for work now, so I get to see lots of elevators. I’ve seen elevators that you pick the floor you want to go to outside the elevator, and then the elevator bank directs you to the one it thinks you should ride to get to your destination the quickest. I’ve seen simple elevators with numbers that light up. And I’ve seen ones that have no lights – they just open and you get on.

I noticed that the elevator lights at the customer site I’ve been assigned to the past couple weeks are arrows. But more importantly, when the elevator is going up, a green up arrow displays. However, when it’s going down, and red down arrow lights.

This got me contemplating what subliminal messages this might be conveying. Certainly one that jumps immediately to mind is that going to work is good, and leaving is bad.

It could also imply that before you leave you should STOP and make sure you have everything you need before going home.

But what about when you have meetings on another floor? Does the red light indicate it’s bad to go to the meeting? And, if so, does that mean meetings should always happen on your floor or higher?

How many other common, every-day objects play to preconceived notions of what we should or shouldn’t do?