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The Sound of Science - 'Nostalgia and Gift Giving'


Newt: You're listening to The Sound of Science on WNIJ. I'm Newt with NIU STEAM. And I'm Becky. With all sorts of winter holidays on the horizon, we wanted to spend a few minutes on why homemade gifts have such an important emotional impact on the recipients.

Becky: Whether it's macaroni art, a hand-knit scarf or a heartfelt poem, homemade gifts have always made an excellent present for the holidays, no matter which one you are celebrating. There's something to be said about how putting your own time and effort into creating something for someone else makes the present more meaningful.

Newt: But that's hard to quantify. That said, there has been research into sentimentality and nostalgia, both of which come into play with homemade gift giving. Sentimentality and nostalgia are closely linked with the key difference being time. You experience sentimentality in the moment, and then nostalgia is based on past experiences. From a neurological level, nostalgia is a chemical reaction in the brain, just like feelings of happiness or sadness. Using an MRI machine, scientists in 2016 found that feelings of nostalgia lead to brain activity related to memory and rewards.

Becky: So basically, nostalgia promotes the positive connection with the past. In fact, nostalgia helps with feeling of loneliness and isolation, which tend to spring up more commonly around the holidays. Nostalgia also helps build a sense of community and interpersonal connection. A lot of research is connected to increasing the psychological health of veterans and the elderly. But pretty much everyone can benefit from an increased perception of love and social support.

Newt: So when you give a loved one something you made yourself, you're also giving them psychological benefits. They won't experience nostalgia when they receive your gift, but they'll likely feel sentimental, which provides the same sort of increase in social connection. At a time when pretty much everything you can think of is mass produced for sale over the internet, we encourage you to take matters into your own hands this holiday season.

Becky: This has been the sound of science on WNIJ, where you learn something new every day