December 4, 2012
Nostalgia Has Tangible Effects On Physical Discomfort
April Flowers for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Cold winter nights bring thoughts of how to stay warm, yet few, if any, would think that remembering days gone by would be effective.
Participants from universities in China and the Netherlands took part in one of five studies devised to investigate the effects of nostalgic feelings on reaction to cold and the perception of warmth.
Participants in the first study were asked to keep an account of their nostalgic feelings over 30 days. These revealed that the participants felt more nostalgic on colder days.
Participants in study number two were placed in one of three rooms - cold (20ËC), comfortable (24ËC) and hot (28ËC) — then their feelings of nostalgia were measured. More nostalgic feelings were reported in the cold room than the hot or comfortable room, while the hot and comfortable room feelings did not differ.
The third study was conducted online using music to evoke nostalgia in order to see if it was linked to warmth. Participants who reported feeling nostalgic also said the music made them feel physically warmer as well.
Nostalgia's effects on physical warmth was tested in the fourth study by placing participants in a cold room and asking them to recall either a nostalgic or ordinary event from their past. After the recollection, they were asked to guess the temperature of the room. The participants who recalled a nostalgic event perceived the room to be warmer.
In study five, participants were again asked to recall either a nostalgic or ordinary event, after which they were asked to place their hand in ice-cold water. The researchers measured how long each participant was able to stand the cold water, finding that those who indulged in nostalgia held their hands in the water longer.
Dr Tim Wildschut, senior lecturer at the University of Southampton, commented: “Nostalgia is experienced frequently and virtually by everyone and we know that it can maintain psychological comfort. For example, nostalgic reverie can combat loneliness. We wanted to take that a step further and assess whether it can also maintain physiological comfort. Our study has shown that nostalgia serves a homeostatic function, allowing the mental simulation of previously enjoyed states, including states of bodily comfort; in this case making us feel warmer or increasing our tolerance of cold. More research is now needed to see if nostalgia can combat other forms of physical discomfort, besides low temperature."
Results of the study were recently published in the journal Emotion.