Heartwarming memories: Nostalgia maintains physiological comfort

Emotion. 2012 Aug;12(4):678-84. doi: 10.1037/a0027236. Epub 2012 Mar 5.


Nostalgia, a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, is a predominantly positive and social emotion. Recent evidence suggests that nostalgia maintains psychological comfort. Here, we propose, and document in five methodologically diverse studies, a broader homeostatic function for nostalgia that also encompasses the maintenance of physiological comfort. We show that nostalgia--an emotion with a strong connotation of warmth--is triggered by coldness. Participants reported stronger nostalgia on colder (vs. warmer) days and in a cold (vs. neutral or warm) room. Nostalgia, in turn, modulates the interoceptive feeling of temperature. Higher levels of music-evoked nostalgia predicted increased physical warmth, and participants who recalled a nostalgic (vs. ordinary autobiographical) event perceived ambient temperature as higher. Finally, and consistent with the close central nervous system integration of temperature and pain sensations, participants who recalled a nostalgic (vs. ordinary autobiographical) event evinced greater tolerance to noxious cold.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Central Nervous System / physiology
  • Child
  • Emotions*
  • Female
  • Happiness
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory*
  • Middle Aged
  • Music
  • Pain
  • Temperature*
  • Young Adult