Lost or fond? Effects of nostalgia on sad mood recovery vary by attachment insecurity

Nostalgia involves a fond recollection of people and events lost to time. Growing evidence indicates that nostalgia may ameliorate negative affective states such as loneliness and boredom. However, the effect of nostalgia on sadness is unknown, and there is little research on how social connectedness might impact nostalgia’s effects. Grounded in a theoretical framework whereby people with lower levels of attachment insecurity benefit more from nostalgia, we exposed participants to a mortality-related sad mood and then randomly assigned them to reflect on a nostalgic or an ordinary event memory. We examined changes in mood and electrodermal activity (EDA) and found that nostalgic versus ordinary event memories led to a blunted recovery from sad mood, but that this effect was moderated by degree of attachment insecurity, such that participants with low insecurity benefited from nostalgia whereas people with high insecurity did not. These findings suggest that nostalgia’s benefits may be tied to the degree of confidence one has in one’s social relationships.

New work from my lab.

Full text here.


Higher Ed Friends: Help Please!

“When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion.” – Dale Carnegie

I am currently writing a book for University of Nebraska Press on the role of emotions in the classroom. It will be part of James Lang‘s series on teaching and learning in higher education, which you can read more about here.

In the book, I will first make the argument that understanding the emotional forces that underpin student motivation and learning can transform our efforts to inspire and instruct. Next I’ll illustrate how we can harness the motivational power of emotions by sharing concrete examples of activities/assignments that target a series of specific affective states.

These states are: confusion and curiosity, awe, humor, social emotions (socially-evoked sadness, empathy, outrage), and happiness/flow.

This is where I need your help!

I’d like to use examples from a variety of disciplines, so if you are willing to share examples of activities/assignments/experiences that evoked these affective states, I’d be ever grateful. The focus will be on the higher ed classroom, but I welcome examples from secondary education (or even business/industry).

Here is a link to an official survey, but also feel free to tweet (@SaRoseCav), email (sarahDOTroseDOTcavanaghATgmailDOTcom), or Facebook me individual stories, or to fill out the form below (results will be sent to me) if you like those options better!

Thanks so much, and any sharing you can do of this link is also greatly appreciated.



Inspiring Things Are Inspiring.

“Mentoring is to support and encourage people to manage their own learning in order that they may maximise their potential, develop their skills, improve their performance and become the person they want to be.” 

Eric Parsloe, The Oxford School of Coaching & Mentoring


I teach at Assumption College. We are lucky to have a wonderful program (with accompanying concentration) in Community Service Learning (CSL), run by an equally wonderful Professor Mike Land and coordinator Susan Hayes.

This semester I’m tweaking my Motivation and Emotion course to have a community service learning component. The challenge with CSL courses is being sure that the community service is embedded in the learning goals and activities of the course – the students should not just be helping out, but learning from the helping.

This semester I am teaming up with the African Community Education (ACE) program. They are community-oriented educational program targeted toward African refugee and immigrant children living in Worcester, Massachusetts. As many of these children have come from nations suffering from war and political/social instability, their educations have typically been disrupted and they face many challenges adjusting to the American public school system. ACE provides after-school tutoring, weekend programs, and other services to assist students with this transition.

Following the rich literature on the benefits of mentoring, I am working with the fabulous folk at ACE and our own CSL program to match my Motivation and Emotion students one-on-one in mentoring partnerships with the students of ACE. Together in class, my students will be learning about the latest scientific research on goal-setting, intrinsic motivation, and self-control… and then will be turning this information into lesson plans that they’ll share with their new mentees, with a focus on their educational and vocational futures.

Given the known effects of mentoring (for both the mentor and the mentee) on learning and motivation, and the fact that motivation is itself the subject matter of the mentoring, this feels like a big ole layer cake of motivation.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

revamped syllabūs

I read this post on revamping your syllabus back in 2011 and really, really wanted to redo mine. But I just felt I couldn’t justify the time involved.


This summer I read Ken Bain’s book on What The Best College Teachers Do, and decided screw it, it is worth it. 

Here’s my first stab at my redesign for my General Psychology, Motivation & Emotion, and Physiological Psychology classes. I’ll tweak them and make them better, but really happy so far.




Real Science, Patiently Waiting.

“In so many introductory science classes, the chemist [Dudley Herschbach] observed, students encounter what they see as “a frozen body of dogma” that must be memorized and regurgitated. Yet in “real science you’re not too worried about the right answer… Real science recognizes that you have an advantage over practically any other human enterprise because what you are after- call it truth or understanding- waits patiently for you while you screw up.”

– From What the Best College Teachers Do by Ken Bain