I have come across people preserving some old articles with them, which although of little day to day use to them today, they would still like to retain. I myself would love to retain any old article Ex: My Grandpa's notebook, or a favorite pen of mine I used in my school days. It would also be very hard for me to simply put the pen in dustbin. Another example is the craving to go back to the place where you once spent your glorious years as a carefree child or to make a trip to a historic place of your ancestral association. Another example is the protests or hesitation to demolish ancestral house or historic public buildings which may be old and also in ruins today

I see that apart from being an idealized form of the past which in reality might never have been so ideal, there are other distortions like compromising on the facts of the past, in addition to sometimes even leading to some sort of a waste of time, and downright clutter in your room as far are such feelings are concerned. Still this phenomenon is so common, and seems to be almost a part of every individual's life, although differing in degrees and intensity.

So my question is, what is the use of this feeling, and what is the evolutionary advantage of having such a feeling?

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    $\begingroup$ Relevant article. I'll point out that evolution likely didn't act on specific, discrete emotions/feelings (e.g., nostalgia, fear, anger). Indeed, it probably makes sense to answer this question outside of evolutionary terms because the basic answer is probably "because those things make you feel good." We could certainly couch the desire to feel good in evolutionary terms, but likely not the feeling of nostalgia per se. $\endgroup$
    – mrt
    Feb 10, 2017 at 3:45
  • $\begingroup$ do you mean to say that these feelings have no practical use? $\endgroup$
    – Sushant
    Feb 10, 2017 at 4:15
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    $\begingroup$ These feelings are certainly useful because they signal the physiological state of your body, which is critical for homeostatic (allostatic) regulation. Nostalgia is just an abstract concept. It's not a thing with an essence that can be seen in nature. Feeling good or bad, on the other hand, is a fundamental feature of consciousness, and when we remember things that were good, we feel good. Simple as that. $\endgroup$
    – mrt
    Feb 10, 2017 at 5:11
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    $\begingroup$ I answered a similar-ish question here: cogsci.stackexchange.com/questions/6525/…. The first obstacle is that evolution operates on inherited traits, and I'm not aware of any evidence that "nostalgia" is inherited. The second issue, as @mrt pointed out, is that something as specific as nostalgia is unlikely to be associated with a specific gene - more likely it is an instantiation of a much more general mechanism such as learning / feeling good. Learning and feelings in general have value, but specific instances may not. $\endgroup$
    – Arnon Weinberg
    Feb 10, 2017 at 23:40


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