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Present but invisible: Physical obscurity fosters social disconnection


European Journal of Social Psychology

Published online on


Research suggests that we feel invisible and disconnected when others avoid our gaze. In three studies, we examine whether similar feelings may arise when others are unable to meet our gaze—when they are unaware of our presence altogether. We posit that feelings of loneliness and disconnection can arise when others are unable to sense one's physical presence. To test whether invisibility engenders loneliness, we primed participants with the invisibility construct (Studies 1 and 2) and manipulated actual visibility (Study 3) prior to assessing feelings of loneliness and isolation. Results revealed that being present, but unseen, is sufficient to induce loneliness. Findings are related to the ostracism and intersectional invisibility literatures, and the social costs of physical obscurity are discussed.