ISSN 2330-717X

Nostalgia: The Gift That Keeps On Giving

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With the festive holiday just around the corner many people will be thinking back to Christmases gone by with a nostalgic longing. Now a new study, involving researchers at the University of Southampton, has shown that charities and not for profit organisations can benefit from people’s nostalgic feelings, because it encourages them to donate more.

The study investigated whether nostalgia, a sentimental longing for the past, can increase donor intentions and donations to charity as well as evaluating whether charities should incorporate nostalgia into appeals.

Researchers instructed participants, who were from two universities in China, to bring to mind a nostalgic autobiographical event before presenting them with a variety of charity appeals.

The participants’ reactions and intentions were measured towards young earthquake victims or children in relatively deprived rural area of China.

Within the study there were five separate measurements. The first was participants’ concrete intentions to volunteer and donate. The second, third and fourth measurements assessed nostalgia mediated by empathy, whether the findings could be generalised to all charities and whether people of different ages and from different backgrounds reacted in the same way. The fifth measurement evaluated nostalgia in charitable appeals and subsequent tangible charitable behaviour.

Results showed that nostalgia boosted participants’ intentions to donate and increased how much they were willing to donate.

Dr Tim Wildschut, senior lecturer at the University of Southampton, comments: “For several hundred years, nostalgia has been regarded as negative emotion and has even been labelled as a medical disease. But actually, nostalgia is predominantly, albeit not exclusively, a positive emotion that serves vital psychological functions. One of these functions is to facilitate socially beneficial reactions.

“Nostalgia increases empathy- based charitable intentions and behaviours. It is encouraging to learn that people can mine their nostalgic memories and derive from this a feeling of empathy for the suffering of others.”

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