Social exclusion is known to have negative consequences for cognition, affect and behavior. And while social support can provide relief – some support is more effective than others, European researchers said. In fact, you can see the effects on an fMRI.

A comforting touch from a friend relieved the negative feelings of study participants who were put in an ostracizing situation, but when a friend simply explained what was happening, participants experienced worsened negative emotions about the exclusion. And the researchers could see the specific neural responses for each outcome, positive or negative, using functional magnetic resonance imaging of the brain.

“Our work highlights that being physically and emotionally touched by a close other can be a very powerful and direct way in helping us deal with our negative emotions – much more so than providing a rational explanation of the situation we are in,” said the study’s director, Giorgia Silani, Ph.D., in a statement.