Summary of Summer Research

This summer I spent seven weeks conducting background research, combing through psychology measures, and building two psychology studies to prepare for data collection and analysis this coming school year for my honors thesis. All of this work will allow me to confidently implement my studies at the start of the fall semester rather than having to rush to build my studies and collect data by the end of the semester. I feel that my studies are much more well-developed than they would have been had I not had the opportunity to begin working on it this summer.

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The Road to Honors Thesis

Everything is beginning to come together. After all of my reading and researching of imagination, nostalgia, creativity, and memory as well as all the methods for priming and measuring these terms my two studies are ready for launch. My first study is a rather simple correlational study that seeks to find whether or not those who are prone nostalgic experiences are significantly more imaginative/creative than those who are not prone to nostalgia. Most people when I tell them I am studying nostalgia are confused as to how I will do that. When I tell them there is an actual literature for provoking and measuring it they are even more perplexed. My first study uses a measure called the Southampton Nostalgia Scale that actually functions to measure a person’s proneness to nostalgia. The other three questionnaires evaluate what I believe to be three other major constructs related to the broader construct of imagination. One evaluates fantasy proneness (i.e. how prone an individual is to fantasy/day-dreaming), another evaluates creativity/cognitive flexibility, and another measures the vividness of mental imagery.

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On the Study of the Mind

One of the greatest challenges posed by psychology research is the quantification of many of the constructs we seek to study. Unlike in (most of) physics, biology, and chemistry, much of the material studied by psychology cannot be boiled down to discretely observable phenomena. Certainly we are able to evaluate facial expressions, eye movement, brain imaging, etc., but a challenge emerges when we seek to measure such abstract concepts as imagination, nostalgia, and creativity. There is a camp of psychology arguing concepts such as these should receive no study under the umbrella of science, but many others, including myself, see this as a limiting and restricting approach to understanding our minds from a comprehensive point of view. Almost anybody around the world will tell that the imagination is a very real thing. We all possess an imagination and we all feel nostalgia. Our senses only reveal to us a small part of reality. Just because we can’t directly see it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Much of my study relies on self-reported measures. While self-report measures certainly have their limits, they are in many cases the best option we have to evaluate psychological constructs.

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Research, Boredom, and the Frontiers of Knowledge– Update 1

Perhaps this is just my opinion, but I think people tend to find psychology one of the most interesting, mystifying, and exciting of the sciences. Regardless of their sometimes controversial validity, the concepts of the ego, unconscious desire, self-actualization, and many others have permeated through much of Western and global imagination. When I tell people I am conducting psychology research, many of them look at me with wide eyes asking me exactly what it is I am researching. When I tell them I’m studying nostalgia and imagination, their eyes get even wider. Then when I tell them what I am specifically doing day by day and week by week here at William & Mary, their eyes start to wander a bit more. I am not electrocuting rats on a wheel, I am not plugging strange wires into peoples’ brains, and NO I am NOT analyzing you right now! Instead, I am combing through the PsycINFO database searching for articles about how to conceptualize, quantify, and measure such murky concepts as imagination, nostalgia, and creativity. In addition, I am going to spend several hours planning and constructing the actual study on Qualtrics.

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“A Heart in the Past, An Eye on the Future”– A Study of Nostalgia & Imagination

Nostalgia comes from the Greek roots “algos”, for pain, and “nostos”, for homecoming. In spite of nostalgia’s historical portrayal as a type of pain and even an illness, recent research has demonstrated a number of benefits related to nostalgia. One of these benefits, as shown in Stephan, Sedikides, Wildschut, Cheung, Routledge, and Arndt (2015), includes the facilitation of inspiration. This study, however, seeks to examine how nostalgia may augment an individual’s ability to actually perform in the act of creation following inspiration. Imagination, a fundamental component in the creative process, often relies on the active use of memories in conceptualizing new ideas. I hypothesize that nostalgia’s basis in active and emotional autobiographic recall will augment imaginative capabilities. Using participants recruited from an undergraduate population in coastal Virginia, the relationships between nostalgia and imagination will be explored in three studies. The first study will seek to establish a base correlation between trait nostalgia proneness as well as trait imaginativeness. The second will evaluate nostalgia’s influence on imagination as compared to less emotion-laden episodic/semantic recall. The final study will test for any mediation effects from positive affect, high self-esteem, and empathy—three of nostalgia’s most prominent and well-established main effects. This research could have implications for any individual reliant on creativity within his or her occupation, including but not limited to those involved in the arts, marketing, and architecture.