Confusing hope and optimism when prospects are good: A matter of language pragmatics or conceptual equivalence?
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.
KeywordsHope Optimism Possibility Personal investment
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.
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 was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
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