Several years ago, a pair of college-age women took turns walking on a well-traveled path across the campus of Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind. Upon encountering another pedestrian, the women did one of three things: met that person’s eyes; met that person’s eyes and smiled; or looked toward their eyes but past them — “looking at them as if they were air,” in the words of Eric D. Wesselmann.
Wesselmann is a psychology professor, now at Illinois State University. The experiment that he and his colleagues conducted was created to study feelings of connection and exclusion. After the pedestrians passed one another, a researcher would stop the subject and ask, “Within the last minute, how disconnected do you feel from others?”
According to the Association for Psychological Science, in whose journal the results ran in 2012, “People who had gotten eye contact from the research assistant, with or without a smile, felt less disconnected than people who had been looked at as if they weren’t there.”
Read the whole story: The Washington Post