I had thought suspected this for some time, but I’d never seen firm evidence.
In most elevators, at least in any built or installed since the early-nineties, the door-close button doesn’t work. It is there mainly to make you think it works. (It does work if, say, a fireman needs to take control. But you need a key, and a fire, to do that.) Once you know this, it can be illuminating to watch people compulsively press the door-close button. That the door eventually closes reinforces their belief in the button’s power. It’s a little like prayer.
This from Nick Paumgarten’s article on elevators, in the April 21 New Yorker (yes, working my way through back-issues).