Researchers from North Carolina State University and Virginia Commonwealth University say they found that having a high level of national nostalgia predicted both positive attitudes toward former President Donald Trump and racial prejudice. 

In previous studies, nostalgia, or feeling a fondness and longing for the past, has been shown to increase feelings of social connectedness, personal meaning, and self-continuity. However, in this recent study published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology, researchers say these same feelings of sentimentality may have negative consequences on the perception and acceptance of others. 

While results showed national nostalgia to be a significant predictor for positive attitudes toward President Trump and racial prejudice, researchers say there was no evidence these same attitudes were related to personal nostalgia. 

Researchers say the results of their study offer evidence that national nostalgia is a distinct emotion that differs from personal nostalgia. Additionally, researchers say findings raise the question of whether perceived group identity threats cause some to have overly optimistic perceptions of the past. 

Ultimately, researchers say further study on national nostalgia could help in better understanding the social dynamics of intergroup attitudes, prejudice, feelings of threat, and provide an overall better understanding of an important psychological function that can be incredibly nuanced. 

“People’s views of the past can be based on misperceptions or flawed memories—even of their own experiences,”  professor of psychology at N.C. State University and lead-author on the recent study, Dr. Anna Behler, explained to The Debrief in an email. “National nostalgia specifically, people can have a sentimental view of a time that they themselves never been a part of, and may have experienced only secondhand through the lens of storytelling, TV shows, or films that portrays the past in a very specific light.”

Photo of a bread line during the Louisville Flood in 1937. (Image Source: Public Domain/ Margaret Bourke-White/ Life Magazine)