Mental travel into the past: Differentiating recollections of nostalgic, ordinary, and positive events

Elena Stephan, Constantine Sedikides, Tim Wildschut

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

98 Scopus citations

Abstract

This research examined construal differences evoked by mental travel to nostalgic, ordinary, or positive autobiographical events. According to the Construal Level Theory, psychologically distant events are construed with abstract terms, proximal events with concrete terms. We argue that nostalgic recollections are characterized by a unique construal pattern. Nostalgia refers to unusual and meaningful memories that are preserved, if not idealized, across time. As such, nostalgic events involve psychological distance and will be construed with abstract terms. Secondarily, they will also be construed with concrete terms as they reflect relevance to the present or psychological proximity. Two experiments confirmed the hypotheses. The experiments compared narratives of nostalgic, ordinary, and positive recollections, as well as distance of pertinent events in time and location. Recollections of nostalgic (compared with ordinary) events included a greater number of abstract terms and higher-level construal while entailing concrete elements linking past to present. The experiments also identified unique consequences of nostalgic recollections in terms of affect, including a sense of authenticity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)290-298
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Journal of Social Psychology
Volume42
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2012

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