Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 40, Issue 4, pp 588–601 | Cite as

Giving hope a sporting chance: Hope as distinct from optimism when events are possible but not probable

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


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.


Hope Optimism Positive expectation 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.

Ethical approval

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. 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 New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Simon M. Bury
    • 1
    Email author
  • Michael Wenzel
    • 1
  • Lydia Woodyatt
    • 1
  1. 1.School of PsychologyFlinders UniversityAdelaideAustralia

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