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Nostalgia, Emotions, and Why We Remember What We Remember

The Best, 2/15/18

Feb 15, 2018 · 5 min read

The Best is our daily compilation of cool stuff we’ve found IRL and around the web. Every day we will share what we are reading, watching, listening to, doing, or pondering. If you have suggestions for what we should include in future segments, let us know in the comments below!

A Deep Dive Into the Intersection of Science, Emotion, and Memory

The advantage of a bad memory is that one enjoys several times the same good things for the very first time. -Friedrich Nietzsche

I can’t remember what day it is even though I’ve checked the calendar upwards of 50 times since starting work.

Yet, I can vividly recall that during 7th-grade band class, Jesse Fischer loudly pointed out to me that I was growing a mustache. (Perhaps it’s important to note here that I’m a woman, so this was quite detrimental to my self-esteem at the time.)

Why do we so intensely remember certain events?

What triggers strong memories, incites nostalgia, or causes us to forget things?

In today’s segment of The Best, we are taking a different spin on #ThrowbackThursday. Rather than reminisce about the cultural icons, shows, music, or objects that we all know and love, let’s reflect on the individual stories and personal memories that make us who we are.

Here are some reads, listens, and watches to get you started:


Article: Why Do We Remember Certain Things, But Forget Others?

“Emotion acts like a highlighter pen that emphasizes certain aspects of experiences to make them more memorable.”

Article: Learning and Memory: How Do We Remember and Why Do We Often Forget?

This is an easy-to-understand scientific summary of how memory works and how we can ‘hijack’ the brain to improve recollection.

Scientific Study: Autobiographical Memory and Culture

In this report, Qi Wang discusses the differences in what individuals across cultures remember. How does culture influence what memories your brain prioritizes retaining and how you think of yourself?

From the abstract:

“Autobiographical memory encompasses memory for significant personal experiences and knowledge of the self and, consequently, is critical for personal identity and psychological wellbeing (Conway & Pleydell-Pearce, 2000; Pillemer, 1998). Although autobiographical memory, like many other cognitive faculties, has been traditionally viewed as an individual matter and a product of the mind or brain, research in the past two decades has revealed the central role of culture in human cognition and remembering. Recent theories of autobiographical memory have increasingly emphasized the constructive nature of memory in the cultural context, and empirical findings have further accentuated the influence of culture on autobiographical remembering.”

Article: How We Remember, and Why We Forget

“Fundamentally, memory represents a change in who we are. Our habits, our ideologies, our hopes and fears are all influenced by what we remember of our past.”

“One of the interesting questions concerning memory is whether we forget because the information is gone from memory or whether we forget because the method of retrieval has been lost. There is good evidence to suggest that we retain more than what we can recall.”

‘Member! ‘Member!

Nostalgia also plays a huge role in what we think, how we to respond to new information, and even how we are advertised to.

Article: How Nostalgia Made America Great Again — When the present looks bleak, we reach for a rose-tinted past.

Despite the title, this article does not just focus on politics. It also dives into the science of nostalgia and why it’s a necessary, evolutionary mechanism of dealing with reality.


Short Video: Why do we feel nostalgia?

Speaking of nostalgia, The Incredibles is back!

Trailer: The Incredibles 2 Sneak Peek


Listen: Radio Lab Podcast — Memory and Forgetting

Listen: Stuff You Should Know Podcast — A Podcast to Remember (How Memory Works)


11 Unforgettable Games to Improve Your Memory — Our favorite from the list is Sudoku! :D


Like how you must continuously work a muscle for it to get stronger, memories only become stronger the more that they are reflected on.

I’ve found that the times in my life that I can recall best are the same time periods when I maintained a consistent journaling habit. Journaling every night before sleep and every morning when I wake up has drastically increased what I retain and has also improved my understanding of myself.

DIY Challenge: Develop a journaling habit. Start with just 5 minutes of reflecting and writing every night.

Questions, thoughts, suggestions? Holla at us in the comments below, or hit us up on Twitter or Instagram at @TheMissionHQ, with the #TheBest and we’ll try to help!

That’s it for today’s edition of The Best. We’ll be back tomorrow with more great content like this!

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