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Nostalgia Fosters Creativity, Openness

When your prose are suffering and you’ve lost your muse, it may be best to think on the past to get those creative juices flowing.

Are your prose suffering? Perhaps dig out an old yearbook and think about events from your past. If you want to get those creative juices flowing, you may need to get a little nostalgic (if recent research is correct).

Tom Jacobs from Pacific Standard summarized the new study that sought to find out if nostalgia helped to influence writing creativity and openness, and indeed it did. In their paper, published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, the researchers conducted four experiments to find how strongly an exercise in nostalgia could boost creative thought.

In the first two, 51 and 124 students were split into two groups. Half were told to “think of a past event that makes you feel nostalgic,” and to immerse themselves in that experience in order to write about it for the next five minutes. The other half were told to think about an “ordinary experience” from their past and write about it as well.

Here’s where the two experiments diverge: In order to test the effects of the exercise, researchers gave the first experimental group instructions to write a story featuring “a princess, a cat, and a race car.” The other group was told to write a story where the first line began: “One cold winter evening, a man and a woman were alarmed by a sound coming from a nearby house.”

The results revealed that those who were put in a nostalgic frame of mind were more creative.

In yet another experiment, researchers split a group of 106 online participants in half, asking one to write about a time they were lucky and the other to write about a nostalgic time in their lives. After a series of written creative tests and answering a series of statements to judge openness, the researchers found that the nostalgic group scored higher for openness and linguistic creativity.

The researchers write:

“The findings showcase the relevance of nostalgic reverie for the present and future, and establish nostalgia as a force of creative endeavors.”

Perhaps creative types must continue to suffer the past in order build linguistic marvels carved from the keyboard. After all, what better place to draw inspiration than from one’s own mind?

Read more at Pacific Standard.

Photo Credit: Damien McMahon/Flickr


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