Magazine article Psychology Today

The Dark Side of the Good Old Days

Magazine article Psychology Today

The Dark Side of the Good Old Days

Article excerpt

POLITICAL MESSAGES often appeal to a longing for the past among voters who worry that their country is changing for the worse. (Think: "Make America Great Again!"] For some voters, this nostalgia seems to go hand-inhand with an aversion to religious or ethnic "newcomers."

That may be more than coincidental, according to psychologist Anouk Smeekes of Utrecht University. In her studies, samples of the Netherlands' Dutch population answered questions (such as "How often do you long for the good old days of the country?") that gauged nation-centered nostalgia. Participants also rated their agreement with statements like "A real Dutch person has Dutch ancestors," as well as their feelings toward immigrant groups. Smeekes found that greater longing for the nation's past predicted less positive feelings toward immigrants and a stronger desire to protect the national heritage.

A separate experiment provides some evidence that national nostalgia is not merely associated with attitudes toward minorities but can actually cause a shift in people's thinking. In this case, Smeekes and colleagues instructed participants to think about positive aspects of their country's past. …

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