Societal Reminiscence and Decisions for a Better Society: A Belief in Progress Explanation

Canice M. C. Kwan*, Shirley Y Y Chen, Alex S L Tsang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review


This research investigates how reminiscing a society's past can encourage risk taking for the society. In one field study and four experiments, we show that encountering objects or appeals linked to their society’s past can lead individuals to become more risk taking and to choose less certain but potentially better options in decisions for society. This effect is mitigated when the reminiscence concerns one’s personal past and when the decisions concern personal welfare. It can also be mitigated by heightening or suppressing the belief that society has progressed. Our findings validate belief in progress as a novel explanation, suggesting that the thoughts evoked in reminiscence supplement their emotional counterparts such as nostalgic and upbeat feelings in altering how decisions are made. This investigation has pragmatic implications for designing past-linked appeals in advertising and branding as well as in advocacy for social change or innovation.
Original languageEnglish
Article number113365
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Business Research
Early online date29 Oct 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Marketing

User-Defined Keywords

  • Advertising
  • Belief in Progress
  • Nostalgia
  • Policy Endorsement
  • Reminiscence
  • Risk Preference


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