PERSONAL NOSTALGIA, WORLD VIEW, MEMORY, AND EMOTIONALITY

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<ul><li><p>Perceptualand Motor Skills, 1998,87, 41 1-432. O Perceptual and Motor Skills 1998 </p><p>PERSONAL NOSTALGIA, WORLD VIEW, MEMORY, AND EMOTIONALITY ' </p><p>KRYSTINE IRENE BATCH0 </p><p>Le Moyrle College </p><p>Sz~mmary.-Baccho's 1995 Nostalgia Inventory was completed by 210 respon- dents, 88 males and 122 females, ranging m .~gc from 5 to 79 years old. Subjects scor- ing high on the Nostalgia Inventory rated rhc past more favorably than did subjects scoring low on the inventory but did not differ in ratings of h e present or future. High-scoring individuals rated themselves more emotional, with stronger memories, need for achievement, and preference for activities with other people, but not as less happy, risk or thrill seeking, religious, logical, easily bored, or expecting to succeed. In a second study, 113 undergraduates, 32 men and 81 women, completed measures of nostalgia, memory, and personality. figh-scoring subjects showed no advantage in free recall over low-scoring subjects but recalled more people-oriented autobiographi- cal memories. Individuals scoring high on nostalgia were no more optimistic, pessimis- tic, or negatively emotional but scored higher on a measure of emotional intensity. Personal nostalgia was distinguished from social-historical nostalgia and world view. Results were discussed with respect to major theoretjcal approaches. </p><p>Until this century, nostalgia was of interest because it was considered a psychiatric disorder associated with debilitating, and in the worst cases fatal, consequences (Rosen, 1975). The social-linguistic history of the word nostal- gia illustrates the role of the phenomenon in medicine as a psychiatric disor- der. In 1688, Hofer combined Nostos, return to the native land, and Algos, suffering or grief, to coin the word "nostalgia" to denote the sadness accom- panying the desire to return to one's native land (Jackson, 1986). From case histories, Hofer concluded that those most susceptible to this disease were young people living in foreign lands who could not adjust to their new envi- ronment. Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, theorists focused atten- tion on soldiers in the wars of Western Europe (Rosen, 1975) and extended the use of the disease to seamen away from home for long periods of time, to students studying in foreign countries, and to domestics serving abroad (Jackson, 1986). </p><p>Authors have noted a range of serious symptoms associated with nostal- gia, including sadness, insomnia, loss of appetite, weakness, anxiety, and fe- ver (Havlena &amp; Holak, 1991). By the early 19th century, theorists classified nostalgia as a form of melancholia or depression, and by the end of the 19th </p><p>'Publication was supported by the Le Moyne Colle e Faculty Senate Committee on Research and Development. Address enquiries to K. I. ~ a t c f o , Ph.D., Department of Psychology, Le Moyne College, Syracuse, New York 13214-1399. </p></li><li><p>century, nostalgia had been subsumed as a variant of melancholia and had disappeared as a separate disorder (Griesinger, 1867/1965). </p><p>Current interest in nostalgia as part of human experience rests upon three main considerations. First, since the middle of this century, the mean- ing of the term "nostalgia" has broadened beyond its original denotation as "homesickness" to refer more d&amp;sely to a yearning or affection for the past (Davis, 1979; Jackson, 1986). Davis (1979) argued that the separation of the concept of nostalgia from mllitary applications and its declassification as a disease led to a semantic drift away from its denotation of homesickness to its modern definition. Davis pointed out that only a small minority of people today would consider nostalgia to be equivalent to homesickness. Several dozen college students he surveyed associated words such as "warm, old times, childhood, and yearning" &amp;th the term nostalgia much more frequent- ly than they did homeszckners, which was avadable on a long checklist of possible associations (p. 4). </p><p>Secondly, since nostalgia constitutes a blend of cognitive (memory) and affective (bittersweet feehgs) processes, it offers an excellent opportunity to study the interplay between cognition and emotion (Cavanaugh, 1989). Whether nostalgia is conceptualized as remembering with emotion or as feel- ing which evokes memories, questions are raised concerning the mutual in- fluence of thought and feelmi Cavanaugh pointed out that we have no idea why people feel nostalgic or whether nostalgia serves some special function. </p><p>Finally, early interest in nostalgia as a chical disorder focused attention on the negative aspect, the bitter, of the bittersweet sentiment; however, current theories allow for the possibiltty of benefits accruing from the nos- talgic experience. For example, Peters (1985) suggested that nostalgia en- ables the individual to relate to others in a way which simultaneously en- sures separateness. Rosen (1975) proposed that nostalgia may constitute an attempt to restore direction and meaning to lde when an individual has been chsplaced from all former links. Nostalgic remembering connects the compo- nents of self over time. Therefore, nostalgia has been viewed as an important vehicle for developing, maintaining, or restoring a sense of self-identity by weaving the threads of one's life history (Cavanaugh, 1989; Mtlls &amp; Cole- man, 1994). As explained by Hertz (1990, p. 195) in nostalgic reverie, ". . . the mind is 'peopled.' Figures of the past are more than abstract remnants of another time; they are current realities as well." Views of nostalgia as a means of enhancing self by remaining connected to others have encouraged theorists to explore the possible therapeutic merits of nostalgia, especially for the elderly (Cavanaugh, 1989; Hertz, 1990; Mills &amp; Coleman, 1994). </p><p>Theories of nostalgia as beneficial rest upon the assumption that the term should be restricted to the past actually experienced by the individual. Davis (1979) maintained that the past which is the object of nostalgia must </p></li><li><p>PERSONAL NOSTALGIA, WORLD VJEW, MEMORY 413 </p><p>have been personally experienced. Davis distinguished nostalgia from a yearning for a time when one has never lived or for a place one has never been, which he designates as an antiquarian feehg . Stern (1992) &amp;stin- guished between two types of nostalgia-historical, the desire to return to a distant past perceived as superior to the present, and personal, which ideal- izes the personally remembered past. </p><p>The distinction between personal and historical past may explain under- lying differences across items-in a 20-item survey constructed by Holbrook (1993) to serve as an index of nostalgia proneness. After omitting the item with the smallest item-total correlation and the weakest loading on the first principal component, Holbrook obtained disappointing results for a single- factor model from a maximum-kkehhood factor analysis. A stepwise search to eliminate additional items until the analysis no longer rejected the null hypothesis of fit for the single-factor model yielded eight remaining items to comprise the Nostalgia Scale. </p><p>It is interesting to note that the surviving items are all general, if not abstract, statements concerning history or society at large. For example, the scale includes items such as, "We are experiencing a decline in the quality of Me" and "Things used to be better in the good old days." Reversed scoring items include statements such as, "History involves a steady improvement in human welfare" and "Technological change will insure a brighter future" (p. 249). The resulting 8-item scale may actually measure social or historical nostalgia. By contrast, the items removed included statements of a more per- sonal wording, for example, "When I was younger, I was happier than I am today" and "Sometimes, I wish I could return to the womb" (p. 255). With- in DaCis' (1979) framework, the rejected items may be closer to the concept of nostalgia as it is usually understood than the surviving items, which may be closer to Davis' concept of antiquarian f e e h g or to Lears' (1998) use of nostalgia to refer to a respect or desire for the cultural values or political vi- sions of an earlier historical period. </p><p>Based upon the definition of nostalgia as yearning for something no longer present, which runs through many theories and dictionary entries, Batcho (1995) constructed a 20-item nostalgia survey on which respondents rate the extent to which they miss each of the items from when they were younger. This instruction is clearly consistent with Davis' (1979) argument that the term nostalgia denotes yearning for things from a personally experi- enced past. It is not clear whether Batcho's inventory measures the same construct measured by Holbrook's (1993) scale. The research reported here investigated individuals' nostalgia for aspects of their past and explores the relationship, if any, between personal nostalgia and historical nostalgia as measured by Holbrook's scale. </p><p>The s h h from a conceptudzation of nostalgia as a psychiatric disorder </p></li><li><p>to that of a natural and adaptive process has focused interest on questions concerning the nature and etiology of the nostalgic experience. There is gen- eral consensus that the hallmark feature of nostalgia is its inherent emotional ambivalence. For example, Mills and Coleman (1994, p. 205) cited Ross (1991) in defining nostalgia as "the bittersweet recall of emotional past events." Similarly, Cavanaugh (1989) agreed with Castelnuovo-Tedesco (1980) in distinguishing nostalgia from reminiscence by defining reminiscence as the act of remembering the past and nostalgia as the bittersweet affect which ac- companies certain memories. Cavanaugh's description echoes the understand- ing advanced by Werman (1977, p. 392) who defined nostalgia as "an am- bivalently felt, affective-cognitive experience." According to Werman, the cognitive component consists of "a memory of a particular place at a given time" and "The affects associated with their memories are characteristically described as bittersweet, indicating a wistful pleasure, a joy tinged with sad- ness" (p. 393). </p><p>However, the presence of bipolar affective components in nostalgia al- lows for disagreement concerning the dominant affect in the experience. For example, Kaplan defined the contemporary understanding of nostalgia as "warm feelings about the past, a past that is imbued with happy memories, pleasures, and joy" and concluded that the mood is ". . . basically one of joy- ousness, producing an air of infatuation and a f eehg of elation" (1987, p. 465). </p><p>On the other hand, many modern theorists define nostalgia as a yearn- ing for what is no longer present and emphasize the sad aspect of nostalgia which accompanies the awareness that the past can never be recaptured (Best &amp; Nelson, 1985; Hertz, 1990; Holbrook, 1993; Peters, 1985). Peters described the intensity of the experience as varying from "a fleeting sadness and yearning to an overwhelming craving that persists and profoundly inter- feres with the individual's attempts to cope with his present circumstances" (p. 135). </p><p>Conflicting emphases on the p r evahg affect in nostalgia reflect differ- ent concepts of the etiology and impact of the experience. In identdying the condttions likely to promote nostalgia, theorists M e r with respect to the roles they assign perceptions of and attachments to the individual's past, present, and future. While most assume that nostalgic f eehg is one of lik- ing, indeed longing, for the past, not atl agree with respect to the percep- tions of that past, especially as perceived relative to the present or the fu- ture. For example, many who write from a psychoanalyuc perspective main- tain that the nostalgic indvidual, unhappy with the present situation, pos- sesses a romanticized view of the past, regardless of the validity of that view (Bassin, 1993; Kaplan, 1987; K d s h , 1989; Werrnan, 1977). Castelnuovo-Te- desco (1980, p. 121) described nostalgics as past oriented, such that "their </p></li><li><p>PERSONAL NOSTALGIA, WORLD VIEW, MEMORY 415 </p><p>longing for the past matches their &amp; s u e of the present and their dread of the future." </p><p>On the other hand, studies such as Hertz' (1990) work with Holocaust survivors cast doubt upon the notion that a pleasant past, real or imagined, is a necessary condition for nostalgia. Hertz (1990, p. 195) gave examples of nostalgic reminiscences of the Holocaust in elderly survivors, "The concomi- tant affective response may reflect both excitement and pleasure. Survivors may describe food eaten on specific occasions as 'the best I have ever tasted'." </p><p>Evidence that one can be nostalgic for a painful past is not restricted to chical observation. Best and Nelson (1985) cited survey findings suggesting that nonwhites were significantly more llkely than Euro-Americans (whites) to report nostalgic feehgs for the past, even when the sample was com- prised of respondents, born before 1905, who had lived through periods of intense racial discrimination. A paradox to theories assuming a romanticized past, such findings are not so troublesome to Werman (1977) who maintain- ed that one can savor the past without wishing to exchange it for the pres- ent. Rather than assuming that nostalgia is necessarily the result of a reaction to an unhappy present, Nawas and Platt (1965) viewed nostalgia as indicat- ing a concern over or dread of the future. </p><p>This paper described two studies which initiated exploration into char- acteristics of individuals who score high on Batcho's Nostalgia Inventory. The first study examined high scoring subjects' perceptions of the world as it is now, as it was when they were younger, and as it wdl be 20 years from now, as well as several personality characteristics according to thkir self-re- port. Theories which describe nostalgia as possessing a romanticized view of the past (e.g., Kaplan, 1987; Kulish, 1989) would predict more favorable ratings of the past by high-scoring subjects. Theories which view nostalgia as a dread of the future (e.g., Nawas &amp; Platt, 1965) lead one to expect high- scoring subjects to rate the future as less favorable and themselves as less inched to take risks or to seek thrds. Theorists such as Peters (1985) who view nostalgia as dissatisfaction with the present predict that high-scoring subjects would rate the present as less favorable and would describe them- selves as less happy than would low scoring subjects. On the other hand, theorists who emphasize the pleasant aspect of nostalgia (e.g., Kaplan, 1987) predict favorable ratings of the present and of their own happiness by high- scoring individuals. </p><p>Numerous theories which emphasize the ambivalent affect in nostalgia suggest that high-scoring subjects would describe themselves as more emo- tional than low-scoring subjects. Theories which focus attention on the role of memory in nostalgia (e.g., Cavanaugh, 1989) suggest that high-scoring subjects would perceive their mem...</p></li></ul>

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