Nostalgic memories serve to increase human resilience. Here, we hypothesized that emotional impressions on a narrator's nostalgic memory change depending on the level of empathy in the listener's response. This independent-measures study was conducted in 120 healthy Japanese undergraduates (66 women, 54 men, Mage 20.3 ± 1.9 years). Nostalgia was induced using a medley of Japanese pop songs from the years 2006–2010. Thirty minutes later each participant was randomly allocated to be interviewed by an experimenter who applied one of three listening conditions: empathy, non-empathy, or non-response. Output measures were participant's talking time, nostalgia ratings, and positive and negative emotion ratings. Data were analyzed by analysis of variance followed by a multiple comparisons test. Empathy group participants had a significantly longer talking time than non-empathy or non-response participants, higher nostalgia scores than non-response participants, and higher positive emotion scores than non-empathy and non-response participants, but lower negative emotion scores than non-reponse participants. Participants were then divided into a less nostalgia-prone and a more nostalgia-prone group using the Southampton Nostalgia Rating Scale and the data were reanalyzed for each experimental condition. The results showed that a person more prone to nostalgia felt more nostalgic and more positive toward their autobiographical memory than those who are less nostalgia-prone. The present findings have implications for human interaction in everyday life and in therapeutic settings.
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