A note on nostalgia and homesickness

The combination of the emotion of joy with the emotion of sadness, we suggest, gives rise to the two complex emotional states of homesickness and nostalgia. Homesick individuals reflect on the home they have left behind with a mixture of sadness at the loss (albeit sometimes temporary) of home life and joy at the memories of the many rewarding things that are incorporated in the idea of the home. Similarly, nostalgia involves looking back at aspects of our personal past, or sometimes even the historical past of our country or family, with the same mixture of sadness that those times are no more, and happiness at the rewards and fulfilment that those times brought. Both of these complex emotions, we propose, would be a result of coupling within SPAARS (see Chapter 5), so that the same event (the home or an aspect of the past) leads to simultaneous appraisals at the schematic model level related to joy and sadness. One or both of these appraisal-based emotion pathways can also, we suggest, become automatised, such that reminders of the past or home can automatically lead to pangs of sadness, joy, or the complex states of nostalgia or homesickness. In some cases it is as though everything is a reminder of what used to be.

There has been some research on the effects of homesickness on the performance of workers and students who are away from home. Shirley Fisher (e.g., Fisher & Hood, 1988) has suggested, for example, that homesickness decreases individuals' ability to attend to the task at hand and that this may lead to decrements in their performance. However, other researchers (e.g., Burt, 1993), while agreeing that homesickness can affect concentration, dispute the fact that alone it can account for any marked loss in academic or work performance.

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