Nostalgia: content, triggers, functions

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2006 Nov;91(5):975-993. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.91.5.975.


Seven methodologically diverse studies addressed 3 fundamental questions about nostalgia. Studies 1 and 2 examined the content of nostalgic experiences. Descriptions of nostalgic experiences typically featured the self as a protagonist in interactions with close others (e.g., friends) or in momentous events (e.g., weddings). Also, the descriptions contained more expressions of positive than negative affect and often depicted the redemption of negative life scenes by subsequent triumphs. Studies 3 and 4 examined triggers of nostalgia and revealed that nostalgia occurs in response to negative mood and the discrete affective state of loneliness. Studies 5, 6, and 7 investigated the functional utility of nostalgia and established that nostalgia bolsters social bonds, increases positive self-regard, and generates positive affect. These findings demarcate key landmarks in the hitherto uncharted research domain of nostalgia.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect / physiology*
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Ego
  • Emotions / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Life Change Events
  • Loneliness / psychology*
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Narration
  • Observer Variation
  • Self Concept
  • Social Behavior
  • Students / psychology