Hope is an
optimistic Optimism is an attitude reflecting a belief or hope that the outcome of some specific endeavor, or outcomes in general, will be positive, favorable, and desirable. A common idiom An idiom is a phrase or expression that typically presents a fig ...

state of mind that is based on an
expectation Expectation or Expectations may refer to: Science * Expectation (epistemic) * Expected value, in mathematical probability theory * Expectation value (quantum mechanics) * Expectation–maximization algorithm, in statistics Music * Expectation (alb ...
of positive outcomes with respect to events and circumstances in one's life or the world at large. As a verb, its definitions include: "expect with confidence" and "to cherish a desire with anticipation." It is an anticipatory emotion. Among its opposites are dejection,
hopelessness Depression is a state of low mood and aversion to activity. It can affect a person's thoughts, behavior, motivation, feeling Feeling was originally used to describe the physical sensation of touch The somatosensory system is a part of th ...
, and despair.

In psychology

Professor of Psychology
Barbara Fredrickson Barbara Lee Fredrickson (born June 15, 1964) is an American American(s) may refer to: * American, something of, from, or related to the United States of America, commonly known as the United States The United States of America (USA), comm ...
argues that hope comes into its own when crisis looms, opening us to new creative possibilities. Frederickson argues that with great need comes an unusually wide range of ideas, as well as such positive emotions as happiness and joy, courage, and empowerment, drawn from four different areas of one's self: from a cognitive, psychological, social, or physical perspective. Hopeful people are "like the little engine that could, ecausethey keep telling themselves "I think I can, I think I can". Such
positive thinking
positive thinking
bears fruit when based on a realistic sense of optimism, not on a naive "false hope". The psychologist
Charles R. Snyder
Charles R. Snyder
linked hope to the existence of a goal, combined with a determined plan for reaching that goal:
Alfred Adler Alfred Adler (; ; 7 February 1870 – 28 May 1937) was an Austrian medical doctor, psychotherapist Psychotherapy (also psychological therapy or talking therapy) is the use of Psychology, psychological methods, particularly when based on regul ...
had similarly argued for the centrality of goal-seeking in human psychology, as too had philosophical anthropologists like
Ernst Bloch Ernst Bloch (; July 8, 1885 – August 4, 1977) was a German Marxist Marxism is a method of socioeconomic analysis that uses a materialist interpretation of historical development, better known as historical materialism, to understand Social ...

Ernst Bloch
. Snyder also stressed the link between hope and mental willpower, as well as the need for realistic perception of goals, arguing that the difference between hope and optimism was that the former included practical pathways to an improved future. D. W. Winnicott saw a child's antisocial behavior as expressing an unconscious hope for management by the wider society, when containment within the immediate family had failed.
Object relations theory Object relations theory in psychoanalytic psychology is the process of developing a psyche in relation to others in the childhood environment. It designates theories or aspects of theories that are concerned with the exploration of relationships ...
similarly sees the analytic
transference Transference (german: Übertragung) is a phenomenon within psychotherapy in which the feelings a person had about their parents, as one example, are unconsciously redirected or ''transferred'' to the present situation. It usually concerns feelin ...
as motivated in part by an unconscious hope that past conflicts and traumas can be dealt with anew.

Hope theory

As a specialist in
positive psychology Positive psychology is the scientific study of what makes life most worth living, focusing on both individual and societal well-being. It studies "positive subjective experience, positive individual traits, and positive institutions...it aims to ...
, Snyder studied how hope and forgiveness can impact several aspects of life such as health, work, education, and personal meaning. He postulated that there are three main things that make up hopeful thinking: * Goals – Approaching life in a goal-oriented way. * Pathways – Finding different ways to achieve your goals. * Agency – Believing that you can instigate change and achieve these goals. In other words, hope was defined as the perceived capability to derive pathways to desired goals and motivate oneself via agency thinking to use those pathways. Snyder argues that individuals who are able to realize these three components and develop a belief in their ability are hopeful people who can establish clear goals, imagine multiple workable pathways toward those goals, and persevere, even when obstacles get in their way. Snyder proposed a "Hope Scale" which considered that a person's determination to achieve their goal is their measured hope. Snyder differentiates between adult-measured hope and child-measured hope. The Adult Hope Scale by Snyder contains 12 questions; 4 measuring 'pathways thinking', 4 measuring 'agency thinking', and 4 that are simply fillers. Each subject responds to each question using an 8-point scale. Fibel and Hale measure hope by combining Snyder's Hope Scale with their own Generalized Expectancy for Success Scale (GESS) to empirically measure hope. Snyder regarded that psychotherapy can help focus attention on one's goals, drawing on
tacit knowledge Tacit knowledge or implicit knowledge—as opposed to formal, codified or explicit knowledge—is knowledge Knowledge is a familiarity, awareness, or understanding of someone or something, such as facts ( descriptive knowledge), skills (proc ...
of how to reach them. Similarly, there is an ''outlook'' and a ''grasp of reality'' to hope, distinguishing No Hope, Lost Hope, False Hope and Real Hope, which differ in terms of viewpoint and realism. Contemporary philosopher
Richard Rorty Richard McKay Rorty (October 4, 1931 – June 8, 2007) was an American philosopher. Educated at the University of Chicago and Yale University, he had strong interests and training in both the history of philosophy and contemporary analytic philos ...
understands hope as more than
goal settingGoal setting involves the development of an action plan A plan is typically any diagram or list of steps with details of timing and resources, used to achieve an objective to do something. It is commonly understood as a temporal set of intended ...
, rather as a
metanarrative A metanarrative (also meta-narrative and grand narrative; french: métarécit) in critical theory and particularly in postmodernism Postmodernism is a broad movement that developed in the mid- to late 20th century across philosophy, the arts, ...
, a story that serves as a promise or reason for expecting a better future. Rorty as
postmodernist Postmodernism is a broad movement that developed in the mid- to late 20th century across philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, existence, Epistemol ...
believes past meta–narratives, including the Christian story, utilitarianism, and
Marxism Marxism is a method of socioeconomic analysis that uses a Economic materialism, materialist interpretation of historical development, better known as historical materialism, to understand Social class, class relations and social conflict as well ...
have proved false hopes; that theory cannot offer social hope; and that liberal man must learn to live without a consensual theory of social hope. Rorty says a new document of promise is needed for social hope to exist again.

In healthcare

Major theories

Of the countless models that examine the importance of hope in an individual's life, there are two major theories that have gained a significant amount of recognition in the field of
psychology Psychology is the science of mind and behavior. Psychology includes the study of consciousness, conscious and Unconscious mind, unconscious phenomena, as well as feeling and thought. It is an academic discipline of immense scope. Psychologis ...

. One of these theories, developed by
Charles R. Snyder
Charles R. Snyder
, argues that hope should be viewed as a cognitive skill that demonstrates an individual's ability to maintain drive in the pursuit of a particular goal. This model reasons that an individual's ability to be hopeful depends on two types of thinking: agency thinking and pathway thinking. Agency thinking refers to an individual's determination to achieve their goals despite possible obstacles, while pathway thinking refers to the ways in which an individual believes they can achieve these personal goals. Snyder's theory uses hope as a mechanism that is most often seen in
psychotherapy Psychotherapy (also psychological therapy or talking therapy) is the use of psychological methods, particularly when based on regular personal interaction with adults, to help a person change behavior and overcome problems in desired ways. Ps ...
. In these instances, the therapist helps their client overcome barriers that have prevented them from achieving goals. The therapist would then help the client set realistic and relevant personal goals (i.e. "I am going to find something I am passionate about and that makes me feel good about myself"), and would help them remain hopeful of their ability to achieve these goals, and suggest the correct pathways to do so. Whereas Snyder's theory focuses on hope as a mechanism to overcome an individual's lack of motivation to achieve goals, the other major theory developed by Kaye A. Herth deals more specifically with an individual's future goals as they relate to coping with illnesses. Herth views hope as "a motivational and cognitive attribute that is theoretically necessary to initiate and sustain action toward goal attainment". Establishing realistic and attainable goals in this situation is more difficult, as the individual most likely does not have direct control over the future of their health. Instead, Herth suggests that the goals should be concerned with how the individual is going to personally deal with the illness—"Instead of drinking to ease the pain of my illness, I am going to surround myself with friends and family". While the nature of the goals in Snyder's model differ with those in Herth's model, they both view hope as a way to maintain personal motivation, which ultimately will result in a greater sense of optimism.

A Theory of Hope

In what has become a classic essay, the anthropologist Arjun Appadurai suggests that, 'the relatively rich and powerful invariably have greater capacity to aspire' (Appadurai, 68). In this view the poor may underinvest in future-oriented activities, in part, because their own experiences and observations of those similar to them suggest that escaping poverty is nearly impossible. Thus, upward mobility by the poor in developing countries might be stalled due to internal constraints such as low aspirations, low self-esteem and low self-efficacy. Debraj Ray builds upon this view of the individual and develops several concepts that have become central in the study of aspirations. The most important is the 'aspirations gap', which is defined as the difference between an individual's aspired standard of living and their present standard of living. The aspirations gap is, at least theoretically, how aspirations inspire effort in future-oriented behaviour. Too narrow of a gap and the benefits are too small of a reward. Too wide of a gap and the effort required to achieve the benefits are too large. Somewhere, in between too narrow and too wide, there is an optimal aspirations gap that maximises effort in future-oriented behaviour.

Major empirical findings

Hope, and more specifically, particularized hope, has been shown to be an important part of the recovery process from illness; it has strong psychological benefits for patients, helping them to cope more effectively with their disease. For example, hope motivates people to pursue healthy behaviors for recovery, such as eating fruits and vegetables, quitting smoking, and engaging in regular
physical activity Physical activity is defined as any voluntary bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires energy expenditure.Global Recommendations on Physical Activity for Health, 2009. World Health Organization. Geneva, Switzerland. Accessed 13/07 ...
. This not only helps to enhance people's recovery from illnesses, but also helps prevent illness from developing in the first place. Patients who maintain high levels of hope have an improved prognosis for life-threatening illness and an enhanced quality of life. Belief and expectation, which are key elements of hope, block pain in patients suffering from chronic illness by releasing endorphins and mimicking the effects of morphine. Consequently, through this process, belief and expectation can set off a chain reaction in the body that can make recovery from chronic illness more likely. This chain reaction is especially evident with studies demonstrating the
placebo effect A placebo ( ) is a substance or treatment which is designed to have no therapeutic value. Common placebos include inert tablets (like sugar pills), inert injections (like saline), sham surgery, and other procedures. In general, placebos can aff ...
, a situation when hope is the only variable aiding in these patients’ recovery. Overall, studies have demonstrated that maintaining a sense of hope during a period of recovery from illness is beneficial. A sense of hopelessness during the recovery period has, in many instances, resulted in adverse health conditions for the patient (i.e. depression and anxiety following the recovery process). Additionally, having a greater amount of hope before and during cognitive therapy has led to decreased PTSD-related depression symptoms in war veterans. Hope has also been found to be associated with more positive perceptions of subjective health. However, reviews of research literature have noted that the connections between hope and symptom severity in other mental health disorders are less clear, such as in cases of individuals with
schizophrenia Schizophrenia is a mental disorder A mental disorder, also called a mental illness or psychiatric disorder, is a behavioral or mental pattern that causes significant distress or impairment of personal functioning. Such features may be ...



The inclusion of hope in treatment programs has potential in both physical and mental health settings. Hope as a mechanism for improved treatment has been studied in the contexts of PTSD, chronic physical illness, and terminal illness, among other disorders and ailments. Within mental health practice, clinicians have suggested using hope interventions as a supplement to more traditional cognitive behavioral therapies. In terms of support for physical illness, research suggests that hope can encourage the release of
endorphins Endorphins (contracted from "endogenous morphine") are endogenous opioid neuropeptides and peptide hormonePeptide hormones or protein hormones are hormones whose molecules are peptides or proteins, respectively. The latter have longer amino acid ...
enkephalin An enkephalin is a pentapeptide involved in regulating nociceptionNociception (also nocioception, from Latin ''nocere'' 'to harm or hurt') is the Somatosensory system, sensory nervous system's process of encoding noxious stimuli. In nociception, i ...
s, which help to block pain.


There are two main arguments based on
judgement Judgement (or US spelling judgment) is also known as ''adjudication'' which means the evaluation of evidence to make a decision. Judgement is also the ability to make considered decisions. The term has four distinct uses: * Informal – opi ...
against those who are advocates of using hope to help treat severe illnesses. The first of which is that if physicians have too much hope, they may aggressively treat the patient. The physician will hold on to a small shred of hope that the patient may get better. Thus, this causes them to try methods that are costly and may have many side effects. One physician noted that she regretted having hope for her patient; it resulted in her patient suffering through three more years of pain that the patient would not have endured if the physician had realized recovery was unfeasible. The second argument is the division between hope and wishing. Those that are hopeful are actively trying to investigate the best path of action while taking into consideration the obstacles. Research has shown though that many of those who have "hope" are wishfully thinking and passively going through the motions, as if they are in denial about their actual circumstances. Being in denial and having too much hope may negatively impact both the patient and the physician.


The impact that hope can have on a patient's recovery process is strongly supported through both empirical research and theoretical approaches. However, reviews of literature also maintain that more longitudinal and methodologically sound research is needed to establish which hope interventions are actually the most effective, and in what setting (i.e. Chronic condition, chronic illness vs. terminal illness).

In culture

In the matter of globalization, hope is focused on economic and social empowerment. Focusing on parts of Asia, hope has taken on a secular or Economic materialism, materialistic form in relation to the pursuit of economic growth. Primary examples are the rise of the economies of Economy of China, China and Economy of India, India, correlating with the notion of Chindia. A secondary relevant example is the increased use of contemporary architecture in rising economies, such as the building of the Shanghai World Financial Center, Burj Khalifa and Taipei 101, which has given rise to a prevailing hope within the countries of origin. In chaotic environments hope is transcended without cultural boundaries, Syrian refugee children are supported by UNESCO's education project through creative education and psycho-social assistance. Other inter-cultural support for instilling hope involve food culture, disengaging refugees from trauma through immersing them in their rich cultural past.

In literature

A classic reference to hope which has entered modern language is the concept that "Hope springs eternal" taken from Alexander Pope's ''Essay on Man'', the phrase reading "Hope springs eternal in the human breast, Man never is, but always ''to be'' blest:" Another popular reference, "Hope is the thing with feathers," is from a poem by Emily Dickinson. Hope can be used as an artistic plot device and is often a motivating force for change in dynamic characters. A commonly understood reference from western popular culture is the subtitle "Star Wars (film), A New Hope" from the original first installment (now considered Episode IV) in the ''Star Wars'' science fiction space opera. The subtitle refers to one of the lead characters, Luke Skywalker, who is expected in the future to allow good to triumph over evil within the plot of the films. The Swallow (bird), swallow has been a symbol of hope, in Aesop's fables and numerous other historic literature. It symbolizes hope, in part because it is among the first birds to appear at the end of winter and the start of spring. Other symbols of hope include the anchor and the dove.

In mythology

Elpis (Hope) appears in ancient Greek mythology with the story of Zeus and Prometheus. Prometheus stole fire from the god Zeus, which infuriated the supreme god. In turn, Zeus created a box that contained all manners of evil, unbeknownst to the receiver of the box. Pandora opened the box after being warned not to, and unleashed a multitude of harmful spirits that inflicted plagues, diseases, and illnesses on mankind. Spirits of greed, envy, hatred, mistrust, sorrow, anger, revenge, lust, and despair scattered far and wide looking for humans to torment. Inside the box, however, there was also an unreleased healing spirit named Hope. From ancient times, people have recognized that a spirit of hope had the power to heal afflictions and helps them bear times of great suffering, illnesses, disasters, loss, and pain caused by the malevolent spirits and events. In Hesiod's ''Works and Days'', the personification of hope is named Elpis. :: Norse mythology however considered Hope (''Vön'') to be the slobber dripping from the mouth of Fenris Wolf: their concept of courage rated most highly a cheerful bravery in the ''absence'' of hope.

In religion

Hope is a key concept in most major world religions, often signifying the "hoper" believes an individual or a collective group will reach a concept of heaven. Depending on the religion, hope can be seen as a prerequisite for and/or byproduct of spiritual attainment.


Hope is one of the three theological virtues of the Christian religion, alongside faith (virtue), faith and charity (virtue), love. "Hope" in the Holy Bible means "a strong and confident expectation" of future reward (see Titus 1:2). In modern terms, hope is akin to trust and a confident expectation". Paul the Apostle argued that Christ was a source of hope for Christians: "For in this hope we have been saved" (see Romans 8:24). According to the ''Holman Bible Dictionary'', hope is a "[t]rustful expectation...the anticipation of a favorable outcome under God's guidance." In ''The Pilgrim's Progress'', it is Pilgrim's Progress#Characters, Hopeful who comforts Christian in Doubting Castle; while conversely at the entrance to Inferno (Dante), Dante's Hell were the words, "Lay down all hope, you that go in by me".


In historic literature of Hinduism, hope is referred to with ''Pratidhi'' (Sanskrit: प्रतिधी), or ''Apêksh'' (Sanskrit: अपेक्ष). It is discussed with the concepts of desire and wish. In Vedas, Vedic philosophy, ''karma'' was linked to ritual sacrifices (''yajna''), hope and success linked to correct performance of these rituals.De John Romus (1995)
Karma and Bhakti ways of Salvation: A Christological Perspective
Indian Journal of Theology, Volume 37, Issue 1, pages 1–14
De Smet, R. (1977), A Copernican Reversal: The Gītākāra's Reformulation of Karma, Philosophy East and West, 27(1), pages 53–63 In Vishnu Smriti, the image of hope, morals and work is represented as the virtuous man who rides in a chariot directed by his hopeful mind to his desired wishes, drawn by his five senses, who keeps the chariot on the path of the virtuous, and thus is not distracted by the wrongs such as wrath, greed, and other vices.Maurice Bloomfield
The Mind as Wish-Car in the Veda
Journal of the American Oriental Society, Volume 39, pages 280–282
In the centuries that followed, the concept of ''karma'' changed from sacramental rituals to actual human action that builds and serves society and human existence–a philosophy epitomized in the Bhagavad Gita. Hope, in the structure of beliefs and motivations, is a long-term ''karmic'' concept. In Hindu belief, actions have consequences, and while one's effort and work may or may not bear near term fruits, it will serve the good, that the journey of one's diligent efforts (karma) and how one pursues the journey, sooner or later leads to bliss and moksha.Oliver Bennett (2011), The manufacture of hope: religion, eschatology and the culture of optimism, International Journal of Cultural Policy, 17(2), pages 115–130

See also


Further reading

* Averill, James R. ''Rules of hope''. Springer-Verlag, 1990. * Miceli, Maria and Cristiano Castelfranchi. "Hope: The Power of Wish and Possibility" in ''Theory Psychology''. April 2010 vol. 20 no. 2 251–276. * Kierkegaard, Søren A. ''The Sickness Unto Death''. Princeton University Press, 1995. * Snyder, C. R. ''Handbook of hope: theory, measures, & applications''. Academic [Press], 2000. * Stout, Larry. ''Ideal Leadership'': Time for a Change. Destiny Image, 2006 {{Authority control Hope Emotions Propositional attitudes