(RxWiki News) “Humans need social connections, and without them, people experience physical and psychological problems,” explains Eric Wesselmann, Ph.D., researcher from Purdue University.
Through his research, the psychologist acknowledges that even simple eye contact from a stranger can make someone feel a brief sense of connectedness in the world.
Researchers discovered that those who had received eye contact, with or without a smile, felt more connected than those who were looked past completely.
People did not seem to take offense or feel less connected if people did not smile as they passed them by, as long as they acknowledged their presence at all.
"What we find so interesting about this is that now we can further speak to the power of human social connection," explains Dr. Wesselmann. "It seems to be a very strong phenomenon."
"Even a simple smile can help others, give them out freely!"
To test this theory, Dr. Wesselmann and his team randomly chose 317 adults walking alone without an iPod or cell phone for an experiment. A college-aged woman passed each of these people, 194 men and 123 women, and performed one of three actions.
The experimenter air-gazed past the person as if they weren’t there; acknowledged only the individual with eye contact; or acknowledged the passerby with eye contact and a smile.
Directly after the test occurred a stranger approached the passerby and asked them two questions: “Within the last minute, how disconnected do you feel from others?” on a 1 to 5 scale and “Within the last minute, have you experienced acknowledgment from a stranger?” with a simple yes/no answer.
The study is published in a recent issue of the journal Psychological Science, a publication from the Association for Psychological Science.