Research Topic

Current Issues in Nostalgia Research

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Nostalgia, “a sentimental longing … for the past”, as defined in the The New Oxford dictionary of English, is an ambivalent, even though mostly positive, emotion. Nostalgia research is a rapidly growing field. A search for the topic “nostalgia” in Web of Science (September, 2019) yielded 4,709 publication ...

Nostalgia, “a sentimental longing … for the past”, as defined in the The New Oxford dictionary of English, is an ambivalent, even though mostly positive, emotion. Nostalgia research is a rapidly growing field. A search for the topic “nostalgia” in Web of Science (September, 2019) yielded 4,709 publication records for the last five decades (1970-2019). From 114 publications (2.42% of the total publications) in the first decade (1970-1979), the field counted 986 (20.49%) records in the fourth decade (2000-2009) and this figure grew to 2,852 (60.57%) publications in the current decade (2010-2019). Nostalgia research is growing exponentially and expanding into new theoretical as well as practical domains.

The high and growing popularity of this field might be due to nostalgia's general beneficial functions and outcomes for individuals and groups as well as due to its many facets and applications. Through its proposed functions (self-oriented, existential, sociality), nostalgia has been found to be a resource for the self: It protects the self against threats, enhances self-continuity, contributes to the restoration of a compromised self, and promotes well-being and a general sense of meaning. Moreover, the benefits of nostalgia are not limited to the personal self, but extend to the collective self (e.g., nostalgia supports one's social identity).

The benefits of nostalgia come in many facets. To name a few, people experiencing nostalgia feel more socially supported and less lonely, feel loved, trust others more, identify more with ingroups, express less prejudice against outgroups, cope more effectively with injustice at work, feel more inspired, and find meaning in their lives. In addition, nostalgia is a common experience: most people nostalgize more than once per week, and many nostalgize daily. Nostalgic reverie is triggered by smells and food from childhood, music, reflecting on one's past, and more. This prevalence, taken together with the myriad salubrious outcomes of nostalgia, means that these experiences can profoundly affect people's lives, primarily in positive ways. Accordingly, nostalgia finds applications in many fields, from clinical and consulting psychology, to politics, marketing and advertising, or to the travel industry.

The steadily growing body of research brings up continuously new questions and areas of investigation, but also challenges previous findings. For example, as summarized by Sedikides and Wildschut in 2019, some research shows that nostalgia reduces prejudice, but other work reports evidence for the opposite conclusion. Similarly, there is an ongoing debate in the literature regarding whether nostalgia is politically colored (i.e., more characteristic for conservatives than for liberals) or not. Another current debate revolves around whether the positive consequences of nostalgia for well-being have been overblown and may be, at least in part, a function of the manner of its elicitation and measurement, as shown by Newman et al. in 2019.

In the present Research Topic, we invite researchers to submit their nostalgia-related research, empirical, theoretical, or application-oriented (e.g., related to politics or marketing), broadly defined. We are particularly interested in research on existing controversies (e.g., nostalgia and prejudice), new research adding to existing body of evidence (e.g., nostalgia and sense of meaning in life) or research that addresses new nostalgia-related questions.


Keywords: nostalgia, self, emotion, identity, well-being


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