Differentiating hope from optimism by examining self-reported appraisals and linguistic content

Karen Gasper, Lauren A. Spencer, Brianna L. Middlewood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Even though hope and optimism are both positive states about desired future events, we hypothesized that their appraisals differ. Specifically, we hypothesized that hope would be associated with greater appraisals of uncertainty, importance, effortful action, morality, unpleasantness, and fear than optimism. Based on action identification theory, we also hypothesized that hope would encourage using more concrete language than optimism. In three experiments, respondents wrote about possible future events that instilled feelings of either hope or optimism. We assessed appraisals via respondents’ self-reports and by coding events for appraisal-relevant language. An internal meta-analysis of three experiments revealed that, compared to optimism, hope involved more uncertainty, importance, effortful action (self-reports only), unpleasantness, fear, and concrete language, but not more morality. These data suggest that even though hope arises when the distal future seems more uncertain and unpleasant, hope might help people obtain their goals by signaling importance, effort, and promoting concrete thinking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)220-237
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Positive Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 3 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Psychology


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