Ignored and hurting

Have you ever been left on the outer of a group? It’s not a pleasant feeling. Maybe you have had your partner ignore you? That’s not nice either. We expect that these things are painful but now new research has shown that we so need recognition from those around us that even being ignored by a total stranger can cause us pain.

Humans are social creatures. There is plenty of evidence that we need to feel connected to other human beings in order to feel happy. Sporting teams, community groups, circles of friends, or even work colleagues can fulfil the need for human to human contact and recognition.

It is to be expected that when significant others in your life do not pay you attention then you will feel out of sorts. What these researchers wanted to test though was how being ignored by a complete stranger might affect you, if at all.

To do this they had a research assistant walk along a well-populated path, pick a subject and either meet that person’s eyes, meet their eyes and smile, or look in the direction of the person’s eyes but look past them and so avoid eye contact. After the assistant had passed the person another experimenter would stop the person and ask, “Within the last minute how disconnected do you feel from others?”

Without knowing what had happened in the experiment, people who had not been made eye contact with, who had been ignored albeit by a complete stranger, reported feeling more disconnected than people who had been made eye contact with.

That is the power of even casual social interaction. It’s good news really because today you can spread a little happiness just by smiling at a stranger.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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