An appraisal profile of nostalgia

Emotion. 2019 Feb;19(1):21-36. doi: 10.1037/emo0000417. Epub 2018 Mar 5.


The authors aimed to (a) identify the cognitive appraisals underlying nostalgia and (b) compare nostalgia with other emotions in terms of its appraisal profile. In Study 1, participants (N = 1,125) generated narratives. Next, they reported the level of nostalgia and 31 other emotions that these narratives elicited. Subsequently, participants evaluated the narrative events on several cognitive appraisals. Events that elicited nostalgia were pleasant, involved an irretrievable loss, felt psychologically distant, and were unique-an appraisal profile that differed from all other emotions. In Study 2 (N = 1,261), the authors experimentally varied these appraisals in a vignette paradigm and measured anticipated nostalgia and 10 other emotions. Participants anticipated most nostalgia when events were pleasant, involved irretrievable loss, were distant, and were unique-a profile shared only with longing. In Study 3 (N = 994), the authors used a guided autobiographical recall procedure in which they manipulated appraisals and measured the resultant emotions. Corroborating Studies 1-2, nostalgia was most intense for events that were pleasant, irretrievably lost, temporally distant, and unique. This appraisal profile was not shared by other emotions. The findings delineate the distinguishing cognitive appraisal profile of nostalgia. Nostalgia occupies a special place in the pantheon of emotions. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Recall / physiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Narration
  • Young Adult