Monday, November 16, 2020
"More interesting still is that nostalgia can bring to mind time-periods we didn’t directly experience. In the film Midnight in Paris (2011), Gil is overwhelmed by nostalgic thoughts about 1920s Paris – which he, a modern-day screenwriter, hasn’t experienced – yet his feelings are nothing short of nostalgic. Indeed, feeling nostalgic for a time one didn’t actually live through appears to be a common phenomenon if all the chatrooms, Facebook pages and websites dedicated to it are anything to go by. In fact, a new word has been coined to capture this precise variant of nostalgia – anemoia, defined by the Urban Dictionary and the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows as ‘nostalgia for a time you’ve never known’."
- from an essay by Felipe de Brigard in Aeon magazine
"In 1985, the psychologist Endel Tulving in Toronto observed that his amnesic patient ‘N N’ not only had difficulty remembering his past: he also had trouble imagining possible future events. This led Tulving to suggest that remembering the past and imagining the future were two processes of a single system for mental time-travel. Further support for this hypothesis came in the early 2000s, as a number of scientific studies confirmed that both remembering the past and imagining the future engage the brain’s so-called ‘default network’. But in the past decade, it has become clear that the brain’s default network supports mental simulations of other hypothetical events too, such as episodes that could have occurred in one’s past but didn’t, atemporal routine activities (eg, brushing teeth), mind-wandering, spatial navigation, imagining other people’s thoughts (mentalising) and narrative comprehension, among others. As a result, researchers now think that what unifies this common neural network isn’t just mental time-travel, but rather a more general kind of psychological process characterised by being self-relevant, socially significant and episodically, dynamically imaginative. My suggestion is that the kinds of nonautobiographical cognitive contents associated with nostalgic states are instances of this broader category of imaginations....
"Consequently, nostalgia can be associated with a possible past one didn’t experience, a concurrent nonactualised present, or even idealised pasts one couldn’t have lived but nevertheless can easily imagine by piecing together memorial information to form detailed episodic mental simulations..."