Popular hope theories treat hope as an expectancy-based construct, with individuals more hopeful the greater their perceived likelihood of success. Consequently, the distinction between hope and other expectancy-based concepts (e.g., optimism) is unclear. The present research aims to identify the unique nature of hope, suggesting hope is invoked in particular when expectations of positive outcomes are low. As long as there is a possibility of those outcomes eventuating, individuals highly invested in them are more likely to hope; but with greater probability hope tends to align with optimism. In Study 1, for supporters of bottom-tier football teams strongly invested in the hoped-for outcome of their team winning, hope’s relationship with likelihood was cubic, accelerating with mere possibility; contrastingly, for optimism the relationship was linear. Study 2 replicated these findings for voters’ hope in state election outcomes. Hope is distinct from optimism and positive expectation; hope is tapped into when odds are low yet individuals are highly invested in the outcome.
- Personal investment
- Positive expectation