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Retromy: Why we believe everything was better in the old days

Everything was better before. The childhood carefree, the holiday sunnier and for a mark, there was still really something to buy. Retromania , nostalgia or simply escape from the world could be called that. For what we perceive in retrospect as positive and enriching, has nothing to do with the actual past. But the Retromanie has a whole range of benefits and even helps us better endure our own present ...

Retromy: What is meant by that?
Retromy: What is meant by that?Retromania, nostalgia and longing - these words are closely related and difficult to separate from one another through a common-language definition .

In social psychology, however, it is agreed that retro-romance and nostalgia go one step further than conventional longing. Anyone with nostalgic thoughts of his past, who is emotionally moved at this moment and has a vivid, sometimes even intense longing.

How do memories come about?
How memories actually arise, is still being explored. It is indisputable that we create our own memories . Equally undoubted is that we save the important points of our biography. It does not just have to be the drastic experiences like the first salary or the first termination, there are also collective memories that we all share. The 7: 1 of Germany against Brazil in the semifinals of the 2014 World Cup is such a memory.

How we remember certain events later depends on our mood in which we store them. But that too is not carved in the rock. We can put the memory of our first internship with a good feeling in our Oberstübchen and annoy us later on the lack of payment or the unusable internship certificate. The more often we think back with a bad feeling and annoyance, the more negative we color the memory.

In other words, what is still a nice and positive memory today may look quite different in a few years' time. So there is not one memory of the past, but every time we think of something, we change it a bit in a different direction.


Not only we, but also the others influence our impressions . The mood of our interlocutor and the way in which he or she remembers what happened have a stamp on our memory image.

All this applies only to those people who have no mental disorders or even suffer from depression . Because here is a different picture: Depressed people do not transfigure the past , but rather tend to perceive it as it is. In other words, depressives have more realistic memories than we do.


Why do we believe that everything was better in the old days?
A few reasons are discussed in the research, which are responsible for the fact that we remember the good old days with a comfortable, comforting feeling:

The past affects the present.
Thinking back to our childhood, we mainly remember the positive side. Psychologists suspect this has an important effect: we see the past better than it was in order not to despair of the present. If we had a realistic memory, we would store memories as they were - and that does not always mean positive. Starting with bad memories for the future, however, can burden us and even prevent us from making new experiences for fear of experiencing and / or failing something negative.

For example, you have had bad experiences with your previous employer . The majority of the overtime you did was not remunerated and there was no overtime compensation . That annoyed you so much that you finally quit.

Of course, this experience will keep you busy for a few weeks and months, but after some time, it will slowly fade - and that's a good thing. If you do not complete it, you are burdening your new employment with it.

A defining decade determines our memory.
That's because the second decade of life shapes us like no other before or after. In the years between 18 and 28 we make important experiences and experience many drastic experiences for the first time: Vocational training, studies, first job and maybe also a first job change are part of it. These things remain in the memory and serve us in the further life and during our further employment biography as a blueprint for future experiences.

The finding that we look at the past more and more positively as we grow older has a simple background: every time we remember something from our past, we rewrite our memory of it. The student internship in the event agency may be a waste of time a few weeks later, but after a few months or years it will be a great and important experience that we would not want to miss - even though we only made coffee .

The older we get, the more often we overwrite our memories ourselves. That's one reason why seniors talk so much about the good old days , even though they have not been so great in a particular case. This is confirmed by very recent results: According to a survey by the Bertelsmann Foundation, two-thirds of all Europeans surveyed in Germany, Spain, Poland, Italy and France think that in the past many things - and sometimes even everything - were better.

Retromania is a form of reality escapism.
Investigations show that we more often flee into our memories, the more unpleasant and threatening we feel the present. Study results show that we perceive our own childhood as more positive and happier, the more depressing we perceive the current reality .

Constant stress, pressure and a huge selection of different options do not make us happier, but are tangible stress factors . The belief in the good as time has therefore also to do with excessive demands .

Too much choice stresses us
Too much choice stresses usThe fact that a glut of choice does not make us happy, but rather perplexed, is also known under the name jam paradox or jam experiment . Because the results were actually found in the supermarket as part of a small study with different types of jams.

And that went like this: the researchers set up two stalls with jams to try. Supermarket visitors could choose from 24 jams at one stall and only six at the other. The stand with 24 jams received the greater attention . Presumably because a large offer appeals to us - at least for the time being. At the end of the day, it was revealed that more buyers had tried jams at the booth with just six varieties than at the other.

The reason for this lies in our reward center. If we have a choice between a large, medium and small selection, our Reward Center will most likely jump in the middle range . Behind this is a simple cost-benefit calculation: a large selection is indeed nice, but requires too many resources in the decision. The effort for the brain is much greater than the average amount and shows no real added value compared to the yield.

So if we are constantly confronted with a huge selection, that overstrains our psychological resources. The result: In the end, we are rather dissatisfied with the selection process and regret our decision.

Retromania is a good helper in this respect: how nice it used to be when we just had to choose between raspberry and strawberry jam around the corner in the mom-and-pop shop - and the findings of neurobiology prove us right.

What advantages does the transfigured view of the past have?
Overwriting a reminder can also have benefits. So some researchers assume that we could learn less from others without the pink glasses of the past . A fluid memory also means that we do not necessarily insist on our opinion and perspective. Keeping an eye on the good old days makes us more balanced with others.

On the other hand, our changeable memory also contributes to our mental health. We humans do badly when our memories evoke conflicting emotions in us. In social psychology, this condition is called cognitive dissonance . And we want to overcome this dissonance by all means.

The transfigured view of the past is one of them. By changing our memories in a direction more in line with our ideas , we can dissolve the dissonance.

A study from the University of Southampton concludes that if we like to remember our past, we have a more positive self-image and a sense of alienation . Because the good feeling that sets in, transfers to the here and now and makes us happier and happier .

The researchers made an interesting discovery: When it's cold, we tend to hang on to our thoughts and recall beautiful experiences.

The amazing thing is that we not only get better mood, the beautiful memory makes the cold more bearable . A beautiful memory spreads heat - and that also in the metaphorical sense.

This is also known as the so-called nostalgia effect . People who have recently thought of a pleasing episode from their past appreciate their ability to approach other people much better.

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