Feeling disconnected from other people? Can a small signal be impactful in helping us feel related to others and the world around us?
Social Psychologists conducted an experiment to see if being acknowledged by a stranger via eye contact would decrease feelings of disconnection and if being looked through as if not there would increase feelings of disconnection. They randomly selected 300 participants from Purdue university.
First, a research assistant walked along a campus pathway, identified a subject by either directly meeting the person’s eyes, then smiling; or looking towards the individual, but did not meet their gaze. Afterwards, another researcher stopped the individual and asked how disconnected they felt from other people, on a scale of 1 to 5. Results showed that with or without a smile, those who experienced eye contact reported feeling less disconnected from others, than those who were passed by as if they weren’t there.
Look Up! Attention from others matters! People need connection for personal wellbeing and happiness. Even a momentary, small signal from a stranger is impactful in a person’s feeling of connectedness. That’s the power of human social connection.
Wesselmann, E. D., Cardoso, F. D., Slater, S., & Williams, K. D. (2012). To Be Looked at as Though Air: Civil Attention Matters. Psychological Science, 23(2), 166-168.