Science Cafe

Stoker’s · December 10, 7:00 pm

The Power of the Past: How Nostalgia Improves Our Psychological and Social Health

Clay Routledge
Department of Psychology, North Dakota State University

For centuries nostalgia was viewed as a neurological or psychological disease. By the late 20th century nostalgia was no longer considered an illness but was still largely perceived as an unhealthy fixation on the past that prevented people from living in the present and planning for the future. However, recent research on the psychology of nostalgia paints a very different picture. Nostalgia is not a mental illness or vulnerability. It is a psychological resource that people can employ to cope with life stressors and uncertainties. Nostalgia improves psychological and social health and mobilizes people to take on new challenges and goals. In this talk I will review the history of nostalgia, discussing how what was once considered a disease of demonic origin confined to Swiss mercenaries is now believed to be a healthy experience shared by people from all corners of the world. To this end, I will describe some of the exciting new studies indicating that nostalgia makes people feel happy, loved, meaningful, young at heart, energized, charitable, and optimistic about the future.