Neither Now nor Here: A Mixed-Methods Exploration of Nostalgia, Regret, and Gender

Gooch, E. M. (Macquarie University), Fitness, J. (Macquarie University)

There has recently been an upsurge of interest in the features and functions of autobiographical emotions such as nostalgia and regret. However, little research exists on how these emotions differ, or how the experience of these emotions might relate to gender. In this mixed-methods study, an international sample of 186 adults over 40 years of age (89 men and 97 women) was randomly allocated to a nostalgia or regret condition. In an online survey, they: a) described a past incident of nostalgia or regret; b) identified prototypical features of the emotion; c) rated features on a positivity scale; and d) completed modified measures of nostalgia- or regret-proneness. MANOVA revealed that, compared to nostalgia, regret involved stronger negative affect, stronger appraisals of personal agency, and more active behavioural responses. No gender differences were found regarding proneness to experiencing either emotion. However, content analyses of emotion accounts revealed that, compared to men, women reported more career, family and inaction-focused regrets, and imbued regret with more self-blame, guilt and shame. Compared to women, men reported more close relationship regret, and felt more nostalgic about places and pop culture. Implications for adaptive psychological and social functioning in older adults will be discussed.

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Gender and Prejudice