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What is the purpose of nostalgia?

  1. Mar 4, 2009 #1
    I was just listening a catchy tune, which was longing for the golden past. What is the evolutionary function of nostalgia?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 4, 2009 #2


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    Why does it have to serve a function? Seems to me that it could easily be an unintentional product of other inherant (human) capabilities.
  4. Mar 4, 2009 #3

    George Jones

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    ... sigh ... I remember a time when the value of nostalgia wasn't questioned ....
  5. Mar 4, 2009 #4


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    I'd guess it most likely has to do with mating and staying mated for next generation rearing purposes.

    By remembering the good times - the flowering of a relationship - perhaps it encourages the continuation of the relationship when child-rearing is afoot and when only the stems remain?

    Or with the off spring as they become more troublesome adolescents, maybe the memories of how cute they were gives them some extra grace to remain in the nest before getting the boot?

    Of course it could be more basic in that we don't remember pain as well as happier things like say chocolate cake. If there was a vivid lifelong recollection of pain, would women ever have a second child?
  6. Mar 4, 2009 #5
    I don't think it serves a purpose. Fear, as in fear of the unknown serves a purpose. We look to the disasters of the future with fear because we don't know what is coming. We look to the disasters of the past with nostalgia because we already know how it turned out.
  7. Mar 4, 2009 #6
    I'd say because the past is known, it's easy to take comfort viewing it. It makes us happy and gives us positive feelings which are beneficial for survival. About the good things in life and what paths we should look to do find happiness. We can look back and know what was before and maybe a while after that moment so we can take comfort and contentment in the predictability. The present gives us less comfort because of the unknown.

    Maybe you meant to ask what the purpose of remembering was. That's fairly obvious but my view, nostalgia is just the comfort we take in remembering what made us feel good along with the factor of predictability which makes us look back and sometimes over-exaggerate the good times.
  8. Mar 4, 2009 #7


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    It bugs me when people try to explain everything in terms of evolution and natural selection. It's powerful, but not omnipotent.
  9. Mar 4, 2009 #8
    Disagree. :smile:

    For every cause, at least insofar as we can tell, there has to be an effect. We have these feelings for some reason. I guess we apparently have some evolutionary trash such as appendixes and such but something emotionally complex as nostalgic feelings, imho, seem to have a purposeful meaning.
  10. Mar 4, 2009 #9


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    I don't want to take time thinking up a specific example that I think irrefutably has no biological function, but I want to suggest the idea of emergence. It seems to me entirely possible, and probable, that brain functions which independently might serve some strictly biological function can combine to create a capacity of some sort which does not serve a biological function.
  11. Mar 4, 2009 #10
    I'm not sure... but I wish I could get rid of that warm fuzzy feeling that I get from the characteristic smell of the physics buildings I've worked inside.
  12. Mar 4, 2009 #11
    It would be interesting to come up with study that could measure someone's satisfaction with their life in the present and, also, how often they feel nostalgic.

    This is just speculation, but I'm willing to bet that the more dissatisfied you are with the present, the more likely you are to long for "the good 'ol days."
  13. Mar 4, 2009 #12
    I'd agree but I don't think this is one of them, at least, in the whole.
  14. Mar 4, 2009 #13


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    These are EXACTLY my thoughts as well. Very succinct. :approve:

    The view of Nabeshin and I does not rule out causality, it simply allows for causes other than evolutional neccessity. I highlighted the last two words that show your own uncertainty. If you are only guessing, then you are unable to rule any other possibilities out. Don't get me wrong, I am not disallowing nostalgia to be an evolutionary neccessity, but I AM allowing other causes.
  15. Mar 4, 2009 #14


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    Are you sure that's nostalgia?
  16. Mar 4, 2009 #15
    And hence why I express uncertainty, because I'm not entirely ruling that out either.
  17. Mar 4, 2009 #16
    Sorry about that chap, but questioning is a part of development.
  18. Mar 4, 2009 #17
    I thought women have more children because, "Pain is momentary, but glory is eternal".
  19. Mar 5, 2009 #18
    If nostalgia is a sentimental affection for a period in the past then how long ago in the past are we talking about?If I forget about and then remember the nice cup of tea I had ten minutes ago can this recall be described as nostalgia?With nostalgia we tend to recall the good things and that helps to guide our future actions .I'm off to put the kettle on.
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2009
  20. Mar 6, 2009 #19
    Your phrase "evolutionary necessity" is unfortunate since it suggests that things can mutate in response to a need for certain traits, as if mutations could be caused by force of will. In fact, though, things mutate randomly and some mutations are advantageous, some are neutral, and some are disadvantages. It seems from the context of your post you understand and accept the latter, but that only makes your use of the phrase "evolutionary necessity" more confusing to me.
  21. Mar 6, 2009 #20
    I have to go with misgfool on this one George. And lighten up. Tell a joke now and then.

    (This post is in payment of an old debt.)
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