Romanticizing The Past: Slow Life Strategists Use Nostalgia To Cope With Loneliness

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From an evolutionary perspective, we all come from different environments and genetic combinations. These factors, along with many others, influence the development of humans. Life History Theory categorizes two different life strategies between slow and fast lifestyles. To distinguish one another, fast life strategists derive from unstable, unpredictable, and uncontrollable environments. Slow life strategists derive from stable, predictable, and controllable environments. These environmental conditions lead to different population densities to each’s own respective environment (Figueredo & Wolf, 2009). Each have their own different mortality along with their different characteristics of counterbalancing mortality. Leading to intrinsic motives for fast life strategists regarding starting a family earlier. And the opposite of slow life strategist who would exemplify more of an extrinsic motivation or would rather focus on furthering their education or career choice before starting a family. These are each different outcomes of environments, along with the different strategies of optimizing time and resources necessary for reproduction or survival (Griskevicius, Delton, Robertson, & Tybur, 2011). However, no matter what environment that one comes from, people still go through similar psychological states such as loneliness.

In research done by (Mittal & Griskevicius, 2014). Childhood environmental uncertainty gave a lower of a sense of control for those who come from less fortunate backgrounds than does from wealthier. Backgrounds were depicted via SES and either classified as a slow or fast life strategists depending on their socio-economic status from both childhood and current environment. In another study they found that those from wealthier childhood SES reported higher control perception. These studies contribute by demonstrating that sense of control is a psychological driver of behaviors. Contributing to the consistent findings of wealthier childhoods tend to feel that they have more sense of control. Does having this sense of control contribute to adulthood personality through childhood environment?

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(Chen, Shit, & Sun, 2017) Hypothesized that a slow life history, was correlated positively with conscientiousness, openness, extraversions, and agreeableness. Along with childhood environmental unpredictability was indirectly associated with personality traits through the mediation of life history. They did that people pursuing a slow LH strategy to show more characteristics of agreeableness, extraversion, openness, conscientiousness and a negative relation to neuroticism. Follow by the confirmation of their second hypothesis of early-life unpredictability may calibrate LH strategists, which result in individualistic differences in personality of adulthood. While know can say that childhood background contributes adulthood personality development, how could LH strategy lead to certain adulthood personality traits.

(Choi & Suh, 2018) Looked at the differences in childhood background and how differences in environments could extend to the remembering of past events. However previous research has found that fast life strategists use past experiences to a lesser extent than its counterparts to solve present situations. The way a person from an unpredictable environment may not live the same lifestyle that a person who has a manageable pattern to use as guidance. An example of this would be the opportunity to continue ones education compared to providing for one’s family. While everyone would like to attend college, not everyone has the same opportunity. Those in unpredictable environments may find it more convenient to start working immediately after high school to provide financial support for their families and themselves. They would plan their future according to their finances at hand compared to waiting four years to get degree until they start making steady income. However, slow strategists’ have more supportive environments with patterns at hand for producing desired goals. This can cause a more predictable mentality that can generate longer term goals and further their education. With this mentality of a predictable world, it may be more sensible to look retrospectively to extract meaning and structure from past events or experiences. Meaning, the capability to plan long-term goals is important for a sense of control (Mittal & Griskevicius, 2014).

Feeling lonely can be discomforting for many different reasons, but it is a universal feeling, symptom of depression, and can occur at any time with the perception of a lack of social support. No one enjoys feeling lonely and often we find ourselves trying to cope with loneliness through various methods. There are worse side effect correlations of suffering with loneliness than there have been with any positive correlations. No matter age, gender, or health, loneliness can impose its will on people that could lead to worsen symptoms or daily functioning. At some point in everyone’s life they have felt lonely and have handled it on their own. However, what if the use of another psychological state is used in order to counteract another? While loneliness is all about negative connotations and side effects. Nostalgia arguably gives the opposite side effects and even a sense of positive affect. One positive affect that nostalgia can induce is a feeling of being socially connected (Wildschut et al, 2006). The purpose of this study is to examine and further the current literature by investigating personality traits between life history strategies. The way a person can cope with certain psychological states can be different from the next, but, could there be similar characteristics from these different categories of life history that can be seen when facing loneliness?

Thinking of the good old days usually implies recollecting a past event that has sentimental value to it. This could have been the typical weekend of going to Blockbuster to pick out a movie to watch, or a favorite family vacation, even a memorable holiday that had emotional meaning to it. There is typically a happy personal association with a nostalgic event. Another way of putting it would be longing for the good old days. In previous studies (Wildschut, Sedikides, Arndt, & Routledge, 20006) the most common objects of nostalgic reverie are momentous evets such as birthdays or vacations and takes settings into accounts such as sunsets or lakes. Recollecting the past or nostalgic events include higher levels of happiness and more frequent expressions of it (Wildschut et al., 2006). Nostalgia is a predominately positive and a social emotion arising from fond memories mixed with reminiscing about one’s childhood, positive event, or close relationship. Nostalgia can be induced by a varied of stimuli’s. However it is universal and can be experienced no matter what age. While nostalgia has more positive affect, this could help counterbalance the feeling of loneliness. Loneliness gives a sense of lacking in social support, nostalgia is a social emotion thus manifesting in stronger social connectedness. While one is a psychological state of rejection the other acts as acceptance. This counterbalance could further be examined regarding life history strategy, slow life strategists also tend to look further back into the past to recall nostalgic events than fast life strategist. Fast life strategists also look back into the past but their nostalgic events tend to be more recent compared to those of slow life strategists (INSERT CITATION HERE CHOI & SUH?). Knowing that both life strategies have different time frames regarding recollecting nostalgic events, does one use it more to feel more socially connected? Or does one tend to use nostalgia more than the other? We hypothesized that fast life strategist would not employ nostalgia to cope with loneliness to the same extent slow life strategists do.

Life History Strategy. The Mini-K Scale (Figueredo et al., 2006) will be used to assess life history strategy. Differential K theories of humans describes individual differences in behavior and biological characteristics indicative of differences in life-history strategy. Low-K characteristics could manifest as short-term thinking, impulsivity, little social support, and extensive risk-taking in correlation with fast life strategist traits. The opposite would be the case of high-K characteristics that would involve long-term thinking, substantial social support structures, monogamy, and consideration of risks in correlation with slow life strategists. Participants would be given a 20 question survey that measures social deviance “I would rather have one than several sexual relationships at a time” and impulsive behaviors “I avoid taking risks”. Participants rate each item on a scale of -3 (disagree strongly) to 3 (Agree strongly).

Nostalgia would be induced through the Event Reflection Task (Sedikides et al., 2015). In the Nostalgia condition, participants would read a definition that defined nostalgia as: “sentimental longing for one’s past or feeling sentimental for a fond and valued memory from one’s personal past (e.g., childhood, close relationships, momentous events).” Followed by the instruction to “think of a nostalgic event in your life. Specifically, try to think of a past event that makes you feel most nostalgic. Bring this nostalgic experience to mind. Immerse yourself in the nostalgic experience for a couple of minutes and think about how it makes you feel.”

In the control group, ordinary autobiographical condition, participants would instructed to “think of an ordinary event in your life. Specifically, try to think of a past event that is ordinary, normal, and every day. Bring this ordinary experience to mind. Immerse yourself in the ordinary experience for a couple of minutes and think about how it makes you feel.

All the participants listed four keywords summarizing their conditioned event and spent a few minutes describing the vent. Followed by a 3-itemt manipulation check (Wildschut et al., 2006). “Right now, I am feeling quite nostalgic”; 1 = strongly disagree, 6 = strongly agree.

Potential participants will receive either an e-mail sent out through an e-email blast specifically targeting the student body of the University Of Central Oklahoma, link sent out through social media such as Facebook, or through Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk). Some students from the UCO student body will gain participation credit and those whom participate from MTurk will receive monetary compensation of $1.25. Those whom participate via social media will receive a warm thank you through meme.

Those interested in completing the study will open the survey on Qualtrics, provided by UCO, by clicking on the linked provided. There they will either consent or not into participating in the study. If they do not consent it will automatically take them to the end of the survey and their data will not be accounted for. However if they do consent, they will complete a demographics form and background questions. Followed immediately by the Mini-K scale, Emotional Frequency Questionnaire, and one of the two Nostalgia group conditions. Followed by a 3-question manipulation check of nostalgia.

The purpose of this project is to examine not only the effect nostalgia has with counteracting the psychological state of feeling lonely, but, also how environmental backgrounds can influence the use of nostalgia to feel socially connected when facing loneliness. Not only do I expect slow life strategists to use nostalgia more, but they will report feeling more socially connected than fast life strategists. On top of having more certain than uncertain patterns on the emotional frequency questionnaire due to the environmental shaping of slow life strategists. From previous research this is what could be expected but could also be used further understand slow and life strategists’ characteristics. Given that fast life strategist focusses on the present and their devaluation of social connections, we expect that fast life strategist may not employ nostalgia to cope with loneliness to the same extent as do slow life strategists.

Preliminary examination of the data appears to confirm our hypothesis and if done so individuals are more likely to handle loneliness with nostalgia due to the source of social connectedness that nostalgia can harness as a possible interpretation. However possible limitations could hinder the results of our study or give different interpretation of the data. It could also serve as a potential preliminary stage to a multi study research examining life history theory, nostalgia, and social connection to further explain or examine a multitude of studies dealing with the same variables. This could help understand how the environment shapes its individuals. How Nostalgia is used, induced, and defined to deal with negative affect states compared to its positive counterparts. And the importance social connection can play as a role for self-esteem, emotional IQ, and the effect it can have to regulate psychological distress. In regard to any of these potential examination, there are also potential limitation that would need to be accounted for and sought after to limit or take into consideration.

One potential limitation this study can have is using the proper materials to account for what we are specifically trying to examine. On top of having the data be generalized to the entire public. There is the risk of having more college participants in the study than the general public we are trying to represent. However we have implemented Mturk in order to counterbalance this potential limitation. Mturk is a database that allows one to make money by accomplishing tasking approved by the requestor, meeting completion requirements. Anyone can access and make an account, hopefully being more representative of the generalized public. We did contribute money out of our pocket in order to fund these participants. Participants will not know of this to avoid any conflict in our data.

Another limitation that we may find is using the right form of measuring life history theory, social connection, and nostalgia. With life history theory there are traditional measures and new with high validity, but our intention is to implement each one in our multi study research of life history theory and social connection. However to avoid experimenters fatigue we used the Mini-K, but in our future research we could use the newer K-SF-42 in which it has a few more questions than the Mini-K scale.

Nostalgia was used as another factor in our study with numerous of articles or research done about. However in this study we used one of the many forms of manipulation for nostalgia, from our research we could have done a different form of nostalgia manipulation that could be a potential future implication. This manipulation would deal with collective vs. individualistic nostalgia. This could further look into how nostalgia within a group could feel more socially connected than individualistic nostalgia. There are many future implications that we could address and hope to accomplish through our extensive research.


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  2. Figueredo, A., & Wolf, P. (2009). Assortative Pairing and Life History Strategy. Human Nature: An Interdisciplinary Biosocial Perspective, 20(3), 317-330.
  3. Sedikides, C., Wildschut, T., Arndt, J., & Routledge, C. (2008). Nostalgia. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 17(5), 304-307
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  5. Cheung, W., Sedikides, C., & Wildschut, T. (2016). Induced nostalgia increases optimism (via social-connectedness and self-esteem) among individuals high, but not low, in trait nostalgia. Personality and Individual Differences, 90, 283-288
  6. Choi, S., & Suh, E. (2018). Retrospective time travel in life satisfaction judgment: A life history approach. Personality and Individual Differences, 129, 138-142.
  7. Kagan, J. (2009). Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 166(3), 375-376.
  8. Olderbak, S., Gladden, P., Wolf, P., & Figueredo, A. (2014). Comparison of Life History Strategy measures. Personality and Individual Differences, 58(C), 82-88.
  9. Chen, Shi, & Sun. (2017). Life history strategy as a mediator between childhood environmental unpredictability and adulthood personality. Personality and Individual Differences, 111, 215-219.
  10. Mittal, C., & Griskevicius, V. (2014). Sense of Control Under Uncertainty Depends on People’s Childhood Environment: A Life History Theory Approach. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 107(4), 621-637.
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Romanticizing The Past: Slow Life Strategists Use Nostalgia To Cope With Loneliness. (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 23, 2024, from
“Romanticizing The Past: Slow Life Strategists Use Nostalgia To Cope With Loneliness.” Edubirdie, 17 Feb. 2022,
Romanticizing The Past: Slow Life Strategists Use Nostalgia To Cope With Loneliness. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 23 Jun. 2024].
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