The problem with this article is that it doesn't actually offer any evidence that these buttons don't work. I know that despite the assertion in the article, many people are skeptical about whether some buttons make a difference [i.e. close elevator door], but equally there are enough incidences that demonstrate that they do work most of the time.
Part of the skepticism also comes from the fact that most people recognize that many such technologies available in public are often broken and don't work. So, it isn't simply a matter of some public placebo where people are too ignorant to not notice.
I was a bit surprised at the article's inclusion of thermostats, since I suspect that that one would be a bit harder to demonstrate.
However, what I found more interesting was the anecdotal tale of baggage handling at a Houston airport. In the first place, I doubt that anyone reading the story or its conclusions will be the least bit surprised. This has been common knowledge for as long as I can remember, and is usually related to a story of waiting in traffic, where everyone acknowledges that they'd rather drive a longer distance [and take the same or even longer time] than to simply sit in traffic and wait.
This is also well recognized in any queuing theory problems where the issue is the speed of customer service or moving large numbers of people [as in Disneyworld exhibits and rides].
So, no big surprise. People hate waiting.
Even PC manufacturers and software developers recognize that you have to do something to hide how slow the system is, so they have all kinds of little things that occur, just to let the user know that something is taking place. When that ceases, most people assume their system is hung.
Anyway ... getting back to our baggage handling story. While having the passengers walk a longer distance to kill time may work in this situation, it certainly doesn't address the real issue of delays so if anything does come up, not only is the passenger irritated at having walked a longer distance, but their luggage still isn't there. So what would help?
Clearly it's the waiting with nothing to do and no feedback on what's happening that are the problems. Therefore one solution would be to have something to distract or entertain people while they are waiting. It seems that this is already being done to a degree, by the prevalence of televisions in airports. However, one of the more obvious points would be to have a camera actually televising the movement of your bags. This would help the customers not just observe operations, but see the stage of progress.
Of course, this could also prove disastrous if the cause of delay is that they really aren't moving your bags.
Oh yeah, and one more thing. Stop posting 100 signs that say "No Smoking" and post one meaningful one that indicates where the smoking area actually is [sorry, that last comment is directed at my continued frustration with airports - being stuck in one as I write this].