Study of the Day: More Evidence That We're a Very Needy Species

More

New research in Psychological Science tests the power of minute human interactions and finds that being ignored hurts, even by a stranger.

main Pavzyuk Svitlana shutterstock_59435503.jpg

PROBLEM: Psychologists already know that humans need to relate with others to be happy and that being left out can be stressful. But just how small a cue is necessary to help someone feel connected?

METHODOLOGY: Researchers led by Purdue University's Eric D. Wesselmann carried out a field experiment on campus with 282 randomly selected participants. A research assistant walked along a well-populated path, picked a subject, and either met that person's eyes, met their eyes and smiled, or looked in the direction of the person's eyes but past them, as if looking through air. When the assistant had passed the person, he or she gave a thumbs-up behind the back to indicate that another experimenter should stop that person. The second experimenter then asked, "Within the last minute, how disconnected do you feel from others?"

RESULTS: 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.

CONCLUSION: A feeling of inclusion can come from something as simple as eye contact. Conversely, being ignored hurts, even by a stranger.

CAVEAT: The researchers note that the effect of social inclusion and exclusion may also be affected by culture or context. They write in their paper: "Lack of acknowledgment may be more painful in some locations (e.g., small towns) and may be normative and preferred in other locations (e.g., large cities)."

SOURCE: The full study, "To Be Looked at as Though Air: Civil Attention Matters," is published in the journal Psychological Science.

Image: Pavzyuk Svitlana/Shutterstock.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Hans Villarica writes for and produces The Atlantic's Health channel. His work has appeared in TIME, People Asia, and Fast Company.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

A Fascinating Short Film About the Multiverse

If life is a series of infinite possibilities, what does it mean to be alive?


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

The Death of Film

You'll never hear the whirring sound of a projector again.

Video

How to Hunt With Poison Darts

A Borneo hunter explains one of his tribe's oldest customs: the art of the blowpipe

Video

A Delightful, Pixar-Inspired Cartoon

An action figure and his reluctant sidekick trek across a kitchen in search of treasure.

Video

I Am an Undocumented Immigrant

"I look like a typical young American."

Video

Why Did I Study Physics?

Using hand-drawn cartoons to explain an academic passion

Writers

Up
Down

More in Health

Just In