The mnemonic mover: Nostalgia regulates avoidance and approach motivation

E. Stephan, T. Wildschut, C. Sedikides, X. Zhou, C. Routledge, W.-Y. Cheung, A.J.J.M. Vingerhoets, Wuming He

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

153 Citations (Scopus)


In light of its role in maintaining psychological equanimity, we proposed that nostalgia—a self-relevant, social, and predominantly positive emotion—regulates avoidance and approach motivation. We advanced a model in which (a) avoidance motivation triggers nostalgia and (b) nostalgia, in turn, increases approach motivation. As a result, nostalgia counteracts the negative impact of avoidance motivation on approach motivation. Five methodologically diverse studies supported this regulatory model. Study 1 used a cross-sectional design and showed that avoidance motivation was positively associated with nostalgia. Nostalgia, in turn, was positively associated with approach motivation. In Study 2, an experimental induction of avoidance motivation increased nostalgia. Nostalgia then predicted increased approach motivation. Studies 3–5 tested the causal effect of nostalgia on approach motivation and behavior. These studies demonstrated that experimental nostalgia inductions strengthened approach motivation (Study 3) and approach behavior as manifested in reduced seating distance (Study 4) and increased helping (Study 5). The findings shed light on nostalgia’s role in regulating the human motivation system.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)545-561
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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