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Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 43, Issue 3, pp 483–492 | Cite as

Confusing hope and optimism when prospects are good: A matter of language pragmatics or conceptual equivalence?

  • Simon M. BuryEmail author
  • Michael Wenzel
  • Lydia Woodyatt
Original Paper

Abstract

In psychology, the concepts of hope and optimism are often treated interchangeably or not clearly delineated from each other. We argue that hope and optimism are conceptually different, and that empirical instances of apparent convergence are a matter of language pragmatics, not semantic equivalence. To test this, the present research used a forced choice methodology. In two studies, including 333 voters in the 2016 US presidential election and 145 Australian football supporters, independent ratings of hope and optimism were rated similarly at high levels of likelihood. However, when forced to choose, participants were more likely to select optimism rather than hope when success was likely. In contrast, when success was less than likely (yet possible) participants were more likely to indicate they felt hope rather than optimism, in particular when they were highly invested in the outcome. The findings highlight the distinctive nature of hope.

Keywords

Hope Optimism Possibility Personal investment 

Notes

Funding

The author(s) received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This research received ethics approval from Flinders University Social and Behavioural Research Ethics Committee, and all procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Research involving Human and animal rights

This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Simon M. Bury
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Michael Wenzel
    • 2
  • Lydia Woodyatt
    • 2
  1. 1.Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre, School of Psychology and Public HealthLa Trobe UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.College of Education, Psychology and Social WorkFlinders UniversityAdelaideAustralia

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