Even the gaze of a complete stranger makes us feel more connected, according to a study at Purdue University. And feeling connected can make you feel better and add years to your life.
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.
Feeling connected doesn't only make you happier, it can add years to your life. It can even help you quit smoking. But it's not how rich or poor your social network actually is that seems to make the most difference, it's how well-connected you think you are that seems to be the driving force. And according to this study, people need to feel connected to the strangers in their life so much that being ignored, even by a stranger, hurts.