Does everyone in the world return to signifiant memories in their lives? Does finding just the right word in a conversation depend on a person’s context?

Two members of Gordon’s psychology department explore such questions in  their recent scholarship. Jonathan Gerber, associate professor (who’s also begun blogging on such issues), addresses the transcendent nature of nostalgia for the scholarly journal, Emotion, in an article published this spring. Bert Hodges, professor of psychology, has written “Righting language: The view from ecological psychology,” which was published this month in Language Sciences. Here’s how they described their work:

IMG_0002Gerber: “The study was a large cross-cultural study of nostalgia involving 18 countries across five continents. I collected the Australian data. The study argues that nostalgia is a pan-cultural emotion that is experienced with two major features in nearly every culture: 1.) It involves fond, social, self-relevant memories; 2.) It is more pleasant than unpleasant. Why is this important? Because it’s worth knowing that people all over the world look back to better times, that we all have enjoyed the social things in our past, and that looking back on these memories makes us more happy than it makes us sad. This should inspire us to live more connected lives now, to create the happy, social memories that we will enjoy looking back on.”

image002Hodges: “Scientific models of language have tended to focus on forms deprived of their ecological context: Speaking and listening have been viewed as disembodied and unaddressed. An ecological approach works to return language to its rightful place, as a socially embedded, morally accountable set of activities that are fundamentally dialogical. Language is viewed as a distributed set of meaning-seeking activities that are primarily physical and pragmatic, the function of which is to realize values, including caring for others and self, and the places they inhabit. Psychologically, language is focused in dialogical arrays, which can function as distributed cognitive systems for perceiving, acting, and reasoning. This more distributed, embodied view of linguistic activity draws attention to its systematic, multi-scalar complexity; to its ability to tie its participants to a place, a history, and a way of life; to the frustration and responsibility entailed in speaking and listening; and to the possibility that it is a form of direct acting and perceiving that extends human capabilities by orders of magnitude.”