As a fitness professional, do you make eye contact with each of your class members? Humans, like other social beings, have an important need to feel they are part of a group—and a recent study conducted at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, found that something as simple as eye contact (as opposed to being ignored) can make people feel more connected.

The study observed the effect of eye contact—or the lack of it—coming from strangers “just walking by.” “Them looking at you or giving you the air gaze—looking through you—seemed to have at least momentary effect,” noted Eric D. Wesselmann, of Purdue University, co-author of the study.

The findings were published in Psychological Science (2012; 23 [2], 166–68).