Many people get feelings of stress when they feel excluded from something, and results from a recent study, published in the journal Psychological Science, shows that feelings of inclusion can even come by way of a complete stranger.

Often times, human nature will dictate a need for us to be connected to something larger than ourselves. This is normally achieved through various social groups, like a book club, joining a sports team, or singing in a church choir.

Researchers Eric Wesselmann of Purdue University, Florencia Cardoso of the Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata, in Argentina, and Samantha Slate and Kipling Williams, both of Purdue, wanted to examine if a small and seemingly insignificant gesture could make someone feel connected.

“Some of my co-authors have found, for example, that people have reported that they felt bothered sometimes even when a stranger hasn’t acknowledged them,” said Wesselmann, in a statement.

Students from Purdue University were selected as participants for the study.

A research assistant walked along a well-populated campus path, randomly picked a subject, and either met the subjects eyes with a glance, met their eyes with a coupling smile, or looked in their general direction, but pretended the subjects weren’t there.

Afterward, another research assistant was signaled to stop the subject and asked how disconnected they felt from others?”

It was learned that people who had gotten eye contact from the research assistant, whether a smile was included or not, felt less of a connection than people who had been looked at as if they weren’t there.

“These are people that you don’t know, just walking by you, but them looking at you or giving you the air gaze, looking through you, seemed to have at least momentary effect, explained Wesselmann.