From the resurgence of Pokémon, never ending movie remakes, as well as recurring trends in fashion and music, reminders of the 90s appear to be everywhere these days. Recent studies have shown that nostalgia has a positive impact on creativity and can inspire openness and new ways of thinking. 3Doodler investigates.
2016 is the new 1996
The X-Files and Fuller House are on TV, and the cool kids are wearing overalls. Blink 182 is selling out concert venues and the Backstreet Boys are back (and recording again). It’s 2016 but we may as well be partying like it’s 1999.
Den of Geek says there are at least 109 movie remakes and reboots planned for the next few years, and many of the titles will be familiar to a 90’s nostalgic audience. From Comedy with Ace Ventura, to SciFi with Stargate, and childhood favourites like Jumanji and Power Rangers, all these reboots will give audiences who love the 90’s plenty of reason to wax nostalgic.
Why We Love the 90s
“Every generation seems to long for their childhood and revels in the nostalgia of the pop culture of that time”, noted San Diego State University professor of Psychology, Dr. Jean Twenge in a recent interview. “Boomers did this for the ‘60s, GenX for the ‘80s.” It’s a common cycle to see. “Nostalgia is a powerful connection to a time when things at least seemed more innocent and simple.”
But why is 90s nostalgia hitting so much harder than past nostalgic trends, particularly for today’s Millennials? “The ‘90s were, arguably, the last good decade—the last time the economy was doing pretty well and the last time we weren’t worrying about terrorism,” Twenge argues. “Many Millennials experienced a ‘90s childhood of peace and prosperity, only to enter adulthood during the Great Recession. It’s like someone baited and switched them.”
One user on Tumblr also pointed to the rapid advance of technology as an explanation for Millennial obsession with the “simpler” decade of their childhood.
Linking Nostalgia and Creativity
While the media loves to portray the Millenial generation as full of self-centered narcissists – what with their love of selfies and Instagramming each meal – there’s an argument to be made that this generation may end up being the most creative as well.
And it’s all because of nostalgia.
Psychologists from the University of Southampton recently published findings in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology showing that nostalgia can have a positive impact on creativity.
The team, led by Wijnand van Tilburg, tested the effect of nostalgic memories, defined as a memory that triggers “a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past” against both ordinary memories and happy memories as preparation for writing a short story.
The study showed that people who were asked to think nostalgically had more linguistic creativity in their stories, compared to other participants who were asked to think of ordinary or even happy memories.
Van Tilburg believes that nostalgia may help form a willingness to try new experiences, which is directly linked to creativity.
“One of the strongest personality traits that predicts creativity is openness,” van Tilburg says. “People who are very open to novelty are more likely to, say, play around with new ideas or create connections between things where others would not.”
Because nostalgia gives people a rooted sense of belonging and security, they then feel more of that sense of openness that leads to creative thought.
Old Vs New
University of Connecticut educational psychologist Jonathan Plucker has a different idea. He says the connection between nostalgia and creativity may come more from the juxtaposition of the old with the new. Because creative ideas often happen when two different concepts are combined or compared, nostalgia may spark the creative process because it requires thinking about past experiences in context with a person’s current life.
“The warm, fuzzy feelings we get from nostalgia may actually make it easier for us to use that older information,” Plucker says. “And if nostalgia is just a very efficient way of getting disparate concepts, then I would absolutely expect it to lead to more creativity.”
So when brainstorming your next project, don’t be afraid to go old school. Pop on an old episode of Captain Planet, crack open a can of Crystal Pepsi, load up Pokemon Go on your phone – and let the creativity flow!