Home > Identification > What’s Left Behind: Identity Continuity Moderates the Effect of Nostalgia on Well-Being and Life Choices

What’s Left Behind: Identity Continuity Moderates the Effect of Nostalgia on Well-Being and Life Choices

What’s Left Behind: Identity Continuity Moderates the Effect of Nostalgia on Well-Being and Life Choices

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
Volume 101, Issue 1, July 2011, Pages 94-108

Aarti Iyer and Jolanda Jetten

Previous research has demonstrated that nostalgia for the past can have positive consequences for individuals’ psychological well-being and their perceived ability to cope with challenges in the present (Wildschut, Sedikides, Arndt, & Routledge, 2006). We propose that this effect is limited to circumstances in which individuals have maintained identity continuity between the past and the present. Support for this moderation hypothesis is obtained in a longitudinal survey (Study 1) and two experiments (Studies 2 and 3) among students entering university. Whereas previously observed positive effects of nostalgia were confirmed when identity continuity had been maintained, feeling nostalgic about the past in the context of lower identity continuity had negative consequences for well-being (Studies 1 and 3), perceived ability to cope with challenges (Studies 1 and 2), and interest in new opportunities (Studies 2 and 3) rather than focusing on familiar experiences (Study 3). Taken together, results indicate that the extent to which individuals view the present as linked to the past has important implications for the outcome of their nostalgia.

Author Keywords: nostalgia; identity continuity; life transitions; social identity; change

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Categories: Identification
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