Nostalgia and Identity in Song Lyrics


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Abstract

The content of original song lyrics was manipulated to explore the relationship of nostalgia to identity and social connectedness. A sample of 96 undergraduates rated six attributes of four sets of lyrics and completed measures of identity exploration, styles of maintaining identity, nostalgia for their past, and nostalgia for a general historical past. Lyrical nostalgia was not a function of how happy, sad, meaningful or liked the lyrics were, but was characterized by the irretrievability of the past. More active identity exploration was associated with higher ratings of lyrical nostalgia. The more actively participants were exploring their identity, the more closely they related to and found meaningful lyrics that emphasize the influence of the past on identity. Consistent with the greater social connectedness of individuals prone to personal nostalgia, nostalgia for one's past was related to reliance on the standards of others in defining identity, and higher ratings of liking, meaning, and relevance for other-directed lyrics. By contrast, participants more nostalgic for an historical past rely less heavily on others to define their identity, and they related more closely to the solitary identity lyrics.

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