The need for people to feel connected runs deep. According to a study conducted at Purdue University, even the gaze of a stranger makes a difference. When strangers pass you by without acknowledging you, you feel more disconnected. And it hurts.
The study looked at traffic along a well-traveled path on campus. A research assistant walked along the path and either met a passing person’s eyes, met their eyes and smiled, or looked right past the person, essentially ignoring them. The person on the path was then immediately interviewed and asked how disconnected they felt right then.
People who had received eye contact from the research assistant, with or without a smile, felt less disconnected than those who had been ignored.
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