What We Talk About When We Talk About Hope: A Prototype Analysis

Siria Xiyueyao Luo*, Femke Van Horen, Kobe Millet, Marcel Zeelenberg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Although hope is a well-studied topic, there is no consensus on its definition. Using a prototype analysis (a bottom-up approach collecting laypeople’s views on hope), the present research defines hope and provides insights into its associations with other related constructs. Study 1 identified a list of features of hope derived from characteristics generated by laypeople in the Netherlands and the United States when asked to think about hope. Study 2 determined the centrality of each of these features of hope, where the most frequently mentioned features were classified as “central features”, whereas the less frequently as “peripheral features”. Studies 3-5 then tested the validity of this classification and showed that central features (compared to peripheral ones) were more often recalled and recognized (Study 3), were classified as a feature of hope more quickly (Study 4), and were more representative in autobiographical situations involving hope (Study 5). Our findings are in part consistent with the definitions of hope reported in previous literature, and suggest in addition that some features deserve more attention than before. Based on our findings and previous literature, we propose the following core elements of hope: belief, positive, future, desire, and possibility. Accordingly, we propose the working definition that hope is a belief that a positive future outcome is possible combined with a desire for that outcome. As our research provides a more nuanced understanding of hope and its associations with other related constructs, we hope the current findings will contribute to future research on this important topic.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)751-768
Issue number4
Early online date2 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • hope
  • faith
  • desire
  • prototype analysis
  • emotion


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