How was life in the past

Retromania: Why we believe that everything was better in the past

Everything was better before. The childhood more carefree, the vacation sunnier and for a mark there was still something to buy. RetromaniaThat could be called nostalgia or simply an escape from the present. Because what we perceive as positive and enriching in retrospect does not have to have anything to do with the actual past. But the Retromania has a number of advantages and even helps us to endure our own presence better ...

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

Retromania: what does it mean?

Retromania, nostalgia and longing - these words are closely related and can only be defined in everyday language difficult to separate from each other.

In social psychology, however, there is agreement that retromania and nostalgia go one step further than that conventional Nostalgia. Anyone who is thinking about their past with nostalgic thoughts is in this moment emotionally moved and has a lively, sometimes even intense longing.

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

How do memories come about?

How memories actually arise is still being researched. But it is undisputed that we keep our memories create yourself. It is also indubitable that we save the important points of our biography. It doesn't just have to be the decisive experiences like your first own salary or your first resignation, there are also collective memories that we all share. Germany's 7-1 victory over Brazil in the semi-finals of the 2014 World Cup is such a memory.

How we later remember certain events depends on our mood togetherin which we save them. But even that is not set in stone. We can put the memory of our first internship in our upper room with a good feeling and later still get annoyed about the lack of payment or the unusable internship certificate. The more often we think back to it with a bad feeling and anger, the more negative we color the memory.

In other words: what is still a nice and positive memory today may look completely different in a few years. So there is no one memory of the past, but every time we think of something specific, let's change it a bit in another direction.

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

All of this only applies to those people who have no psychological upset or who suffer from depression. Because here a different picture emerges: Depressed people glorify the past not, but rather tend to perceive it as it is. In other words, depressed people have more realistic memories than we do.

Why do we think that everything was better in the past?

A few reasons are discussed in research that are responsible for our remembering the good old days with a cozy, comforting feeling:

  1. The past affects the present.

    When we think back to our childhood, we mainly remember the positive aspects. Psychologists suspect an important effect in this: 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 doesn't always mean positive. However, starting the future with bad memories can burden us and even prevent us from to have new experiences for fear of experiencing negative and / or failing.

    An example: you worked with your previous employer bad experiences made. Most of the overtime you worked was not paid for and there was no overtime compensation. It upset you so much that you eventually quit.

    Of course, this experience will occupy you for a few weeks and months, but after a while it will slowly fade - and that's a good thing. If you don't finish with it, put a strain on your new employment relationship in order to.

  2. A defining decade determines our memory.

    This has to do with the fact that the second decade of life shapes us like no other before or after. In the years between 18 and 28 we gain important experiences and experience many decisive experiences for the first time: vocational training, studies, first job and maybe also the first job change are part of it. These things stay in our memory and serve as blueprints for future experiences in our further life and during our further career.

    The finding that we view the past more positively with increasing age has a simple background: every time we remember something from our past, we rewrite our memory of it. A few weeks later, the student internship in the event agency may still seem like a waste of time, but after a few months or years it becomes a waste of time great and important experiencethat we don't want to miss anymore - even though we only made coffee.

    The older we get, the more often we overwrite our memories ourselves. That is one reason why seniors in particular are so often affected by the good old days talk even though it wasn't that great in individual cases. This is confirmed by very recent results: According to a survey by the Bertelsmann Foundation, think two-thirds of all Europeans surveyed in Germany, Spain, Poland, Italy and France that a lot - and sometimes everything - was actually better in the past.

  3. Retromania is a form of escape from reality.

    Research shows that the more uncomfortable and threatening we perceive the present, the more we take refuge in our memories. Study results show that we perceive our own childhood as more positive and happier, ever more depressing how we perceive the current reality.

    Constant stress, pressure and an enormous selection of different options do not make us happier, but are tangible stress factors. Believing in the good as time therefore also has to do with being overwhelmed.

Too much choice stresses us out

The fact that an oversupply of choice does not make us happy, but rather perplexed, is also 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 jam.

And it worked like this: The researchers set up two stands with jams to try. At one stand, supermarket visitors could choose from 24 jams, at the other only six. The stand with 24 jams received more attention. Probably because a wide range appeals to us - at least initially. At the end of the day it turned out that more buyers had tried jams at the stand with only six varieties than at the other.

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

So if we are constantly confronted with a huge selection, our psychological resources are overwhelmed. The result: in the end we are closer to the selection process dissatisfied and repent even our decision.

Retromania is a good helper in this regard: How nice it used to be when we only had to choose between raspberry and strawberry jam in the corner shop around the corner - and that Findings of neurobiology prove us right.

What are the advantages of a transfigured view of the past?

An overwritable reminder can also have advantages. Some researchers assume that we are without the rose-tinted glasses of the past learn less from others could. A fluid memory also means that we do not necessarily insist on our opinion and point of view. Keeping an eye on the good old days makes us more balanced towards others.

On the other hand, our changeable memory also contributes to our mental health. We humans don't get along well when our Memories conflicting feelings evoke in us. In social psychology, this state 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 that is more ours imaginations we can resolve the dissonance.

A study by the University of Southampton comes to the conclusion that we have a more positive one Self-image and external image when we fondly remember our past. Because the good feeling that arises is carried over to the here and now and makes us happier and happier.

In doing so, the researchers made an interesting discovery: When it's cold, we tend to linger on our thoughts and recall beautiful experiences.

The amazing thing: It doesn't just put us in a better mood, it's nice Souvenirs make the cold more bearable. So a nice memory spreads warmth - also in a metaphorical sense.

This is also known as a so-called Nostalgia effect. People who have recently thought of an enjoyable episode from their past rate their ability to approach other people much better.

What other readers have read

[Photo credit: Dmytro Zinkevych by]