The place I stay have a faulty lift. It does not break down entirely but it has difficulty closing when we want it to. Every time the door is about to close, it opens up again. This opening and closing is pretty frustrating especially when you are rushing for time. However, the door does close at about the third attempt.
Recently, I entered the lift with an auntie and her daughter. Usually I would just ignore the lift and let it close by itself after a while. But with passengers in the lift, I was obliged to put in some effort to close the stubborn door. So I pressed and held the close button. I failed after two attempts and I find it rather embarrassing. The auntie intercepted and said I have to press the close button continuously and make sure the open button does not light up. Just as she pressed the close button, the lift door closed. She was so pleased with her method.
I am a mechanical engineer by training but I really do not know what is wrong with the lift. The auntie seems to know something that the engineer doesn’t. I do not profess I have a wealth of engineering experience to solve any mechanical problem thrown at me. But I do not think by varying the way we press the close button would have a higher chance of closing the door. I cannot fail to wonder if she is having a false sense of control – is she trying to control a spoilt lift where her actions have no effects on the outcome?
I remember reading Leonard Mlodinow’s The Drunkard’s Walk where he said there was a psychological experiment where the subjects were asked to click a device while random lights flashes in the room. Most subjects reportedly said they were able to control the flashing of lights with their clicking.
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I believe all of us have a false sense of control in different aspect of our lives. Jon’s last post talked about Locus of Control. I do not totally agree investors and traders should have high locus of control all the time. I think there must be a balance – on one hand investors and traders must do their due diligence before taking a position and be responsible for their actions. On the other hand, they should not demand the market act according to their favors or even blame the market when things do not go well. No one can predict or control the market. It is an area where we should not have a false sense of control about. We must know what we can control (our actions) and what we cannot control (market).