Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/3/2010 (3593 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Feeling left out? You'll probably gravitate toward foods that filled your fridge, programs that were on television and cars that populated driveways years ago, a new study suggests.
And what's more, people find genuine comfort and a sense of belonging from nostalgic products when they're feeling forlorn, according to the latest issue of the Journal of Consumer Research. "Nostalgic recollections tend to be much more likely to include other people and people you feel emotionally close to than they are to include recollections of you doing things by yourself," said Katherine Loveland, a PhD candidate in marketing at Arizona State University and co-author of the study. "When you consume a nostalgic product, it's sort of prompting all these memories in your brain of times when you consumed this product in the past with close others."
To test this and create a feeling of social exclusion in the lab, the researchers set volunteers up with a computer game called Cyberball, in which they were told they would be playing with three other people who would decide how often to toss a ball their way. In reality, they were playing with a computer that decided whether to play fair or opt to exclude the volunteer after the first few tosses.
The researchers measured people's need to belong after playing the game, after asking them to choose between nostalgic and contemporary products such as cookies and shower gel, and then again after they'd consumed those nostalgic products. They wondered if simply choosing a nostalgic product would be enough to make people feel less left out, Loveland said — but they found it's actually eating that brand of cookie from childhood or watching that favourite TV show from university that gives people a boost.
"We found it's the act of consuming a nostalgic product that does make you feel connected to other people again and satiate(s) your need to belong," Loveland said. "We thought it was really cool that when we gave them a nostalgic cookie, it made them feel all better."
The human need to feel included is so powerful other researchers who have run the Cyberball experiment and told participants the other players were neo-Nazis found the volunteers were offended when they believed the skinheads were choosing not to play with them, Loveland said.
"We have such an innate need to belong that we're upset when we're rejected even by people that we hate," she said.
Many of the studies for the paper were conducted in the Netherlands with nostalgic brands unfamiliar to most North Americans, but the U.S. studies pinpointed the movie The Sandlot and TV shows like Saved By the Bell and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air as nostalgic fare for university-aged young adults, and the Mini Cooper and Volkswagen Beetle as nostalgic cars for people of varying ages. Those associations suggest there are some universally nostalgic products and others that are unique to certain age groups, Loveland said.
Nostalgia is also driven by geography, if Jerry Stubbs' Nostalgia Foods is any indication. Stubbs founded the company a year and a half ago after mulling over the idea for years, he said, and he now ships sentimental Winnipeg-only food to former residents throughout North America, averaging one or two orders each day, ranging in cost from $100 to $500.
There's a "tremendous" emotional pull to local products like Jeanne's cakes and Gondola Pizza for people who long for a taste of home, he said.
— Canwest News Service