Back to the future: nostalgia increases optimism

Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 2013 Nov;39(11):1484-96. doi: 10.1177/0146167213499187. Epub 2013 Aug 8.


This research examined the proposition that nostalgia is not simply a past-oriented emotion, but its scope extends into the future, and, in particular, a positive future. We adopted a convergent validation approach, using multiple methods to assess the relation between nostalgia and optimism. Study 1 tested whether nostalgic narratives entail traces of optimism; indeed, nostalgic (compared with ordinary) narratives contained more expressions of optimism. Study 2 manipulated nostalgia through the recollection of nostalgic (vs. ordinary) events, and showed that nostalgia boosts optimism. Study 3 demonstrated that the effect of nostalgia (induced with nomothetically relevant songs) on optimism is mediated by self-esteem. Finally, Study 4 established that nostalgia (induced with idiographically relevant lyrics) fosters social connectedness, which subsequently increases self-esteem, which then boosts optimism. The nostalgic experience is inherently optimistic and paints a subjectively rosier future.

Keywords: emotion; memory; nostalgia; optimism; self-esteem; social connectedness.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Forecasting
  • Humans
  • Imagination*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Social Perception*
  • Thinking*
  • Young Adult