Saved by the Past? Disease threat triggers nostalgic consumption

Dovile Barauskaite*, Justina Gineikiene, Bob M. Fennis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Recent research views nostalgia as a valuable resource that can be accessed in times of distress and discomfort. The present work complements this literature by examining novel and previously uncovered triggers and downstream consequences of nostalgia in the consumer domain: disease-threat and protective behavior. The current paper argues that nostalgia functions as such a psychological resource with buffering qualities and is used as a coping mechanism to maintain comfort when experiencing disease threat—the perception of a potential threat posed by an infectious disease. Using an archival data set and five experiments, the authors demonstrate that when facing a disease threat, but not an actual occurrence of disease, consumers experience a higher need for nostalgia and show an increased preference for nostalgic products. That is, internet searches for nostalgic products rise during flu season as well as COVID-19 pandemic (Study 1), disease threat induces increased levels of experienced nostalgia (Study 2), which translate into increased preferences for nostalgic products (Study 3 and Study 5), mediated by disgust (Study 4). Finally, the authors show the resource value of product-induced nostalgia, demonstrating the ironic effect that it can compensate for disease-protective behavior (Study 6). The results provide important practical implications for marketers and policy-makers who could focus on promoting nostalgic products or incorporating nostalgic cues in product design and communication that would generate positive consumer evaluations when the threat of illness or disease is salient.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1433-1450
Number of pages18
JournalPsychology & Marketing
Issue number8
Early online date30-Mar-2022
Publication statusPublished - Aug-2022

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