The news: The reason we had such a fondness for our friends from summer camp has more to do with science than you might have thought.
Researchers from the University of Southampton recently discovered that the way we experience nostalgia can have a tremendous impact on how our relationships develop. According to their findings, the shared experiences of youth build much strong relationships than similarities in taste, interest or background.
The science: The researchers asked 313 undergraduates from the University of Southampton to reflect on a nostalgic event.
They found participants who thought of something they had experienced together with a group of people — or, as the researchers put it in the study, "collective nostalgia" — saw the group far more positively and reported stronger feelings of solidarity with group members compared to people who experienced a nostalgic event individually.
Put simply, shared experiences create stronger camaraderie than shared interests alone. Sure, you can develop friendships with people based on nostalgic events — a special summer camp, an incredible concert or a ridiculous sporting event — but those people who actually experienced those things together tend to develop strong bonds that last a lifetime.
Why does this matter? Nostalgia can play a significant role in shaping how we feel about our peers and our coworkers. As the research states, "employees who have worked for an organization for a sufficient period develop collective nostalgia," and that, over time, creates a group identity.
Furthermore, the study suggested nostalgia can "increase charitable donations, volunteerism and helping" by creating strong group identities. If we have a positive connection to a group because of nostalgic memories involving that group, we'll be more likely to help it. No wonder your college hits up its alumni for donations so much.
Of all the ties that bind us, nostalgia — and not '90s listicle nostalgia, but true "what an amazing experience I had with these people" nostalgia — might be the most important one.