Perception of speed

The purpose is functional, but it’s psychological rather than mechanical. “In the early industrial age, many of the new buildings being built taller than anything ever built before and most had lifts. As buildings got taller and taller, more people began to use lifts but as they were quite slow, people were constantly complaining.

Lift companies were challenged with this problem and came up with the typical problem statement, lifts move too slow. So they went off to design lifts that were faster and safer, but at the time it was very expensive to do so.

Then an engineer proposed that they work on a different problem statement. He proposed that the problem was people think lifts move to slow. He inserted two words “people think” into the problem statement which allowed the design team to approach the problem from a completely different angle and thus a whole new set of ideas. Instead of concentrating on larger motors, slicker pulley designs and such, they concentrated on the passenger in the lift.

When they looked at the problem from this angle, the ideas started to snowball. Is it really too slow? Why do they think it is slow? How can we distract them? How can we make it more comfortable? Are customers scared of heights?

This lead to lots of customer research. They found that a lot of people thought the elevators were a lot slower than they actually were.

They also discovered that people had an exaggerated sense of time because they had nothing to do but stare at the wall and think about the safety of the elevator being suspended in the air, and preoccupied with the fear of falling.

This lead to the idea of mirrors in lifts, so people would think about something else besides danger and slowness. Instead they could see if their hair looked ok, if their tie was straight, if they needed to touch up their lipstick etc.

By installing mirrors in the elevators, people became distracted and were no longer preoccupied with the fear of falling. On a follow up survey, customers commented how much faster the new lifts were even though the speed was exactly the same. The lift design itself had not changed at all, just people’s perception of the speed.


Optical illusion

Mirrors actually help to give the optical illusion of the lift being larger than it is, which helps some people who have claustrophobia to deal with their journey within the box.



The purpose of having mirrors within the lift is to allow you to see what everyone is doing. If they are planning to assault or rob you, you will at least have forewarning and a short amount of time to prepare yourself accordingly.


Helping wheelchair users

The practice of placing mirrors within lifts first came from Japan, and according to Japan Elevator Association, it is a regulation for all lifts to be outfitted with a mirror within. The reason for doing so is to help wheel-chair bound people move in and out of the lift more easily.

Because a lift might not be big enough for wheelchairs to turn around, the wheelchair bound might have to reverse their wheelchair out of the lift. With mirrors within the lift to show them where they’re going, they’ll have an easier time getting out of it.

All of these theories are relevant and if you are looking to install a lift with mirrors we have lots of options available.