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date: 23 May 2017

Hope and Health and Risk Messaging

Summary and Keywords

Hope has been defined in primarily two ways, and both have implications for message design within health and risk communication. First, hope has been defined as a way of thinking, or disposition, that affects how people pursue goals. Dispositional hope manifests in beliefs about one’s capacity to initiate and sustain action toward goals (agency) and one’s ability to generate ways to reach those goals. Dispositional hope has been associated with positive physical and mental health outcomes. For example, high-hope women have greater intentions to engage in cancer prevention behaviors than do low-hope women. Numerous studies have associated higher hope with better pain management, and people who are higher in hope have a greater pain tolerance than people lower in hope. Hope is also related to better psychological adjustment.

Much of the research on dispositional hope focuses on correlating hope with a variety of positive health and non-health outcomes; however, psychotherapeutic interventions have also been designed to increase dispositional hope. These interventions have shown improvements in health-related outcomes. Although their potential is not yet realized, interventions for developing dispositional hope could improve compliance with medical recommendations, increase adoption of health behaviors, and decrease risk behaviors.

The second way that hope has been defined is as a discrete emotion. Discrete emotions are brief, intense, psychological, and evaluative reactions directed at external stimuli (e.g., people, events, or objects). In response to these external stimuli, emotions help individuals adapt to their environment by activating a unique pattern of thoughts (cognitions), physiological changes, subjective feelings, motor expressions, and action (or behavioral) tendencies.

Lazarus’s cognitive-mediational theory has been one of the most influential theories of discrete emotions that includes a definition of hope. Lazarus identifies the core relational theme of hope as “fearing the worst but yearning for better.” Lazarus deems hope to be a problematic emotion because he believes hope contains both positive and negative elements. Despite uncertainty about the exact nature of hope, Lazarus believes that hope is vital to coping with stress. Hope enables people to believe in the possibility of better circumstances and therefore is critical as a coping mechanism against despair. Lazarus does not provide guidance for what a message might need to include to evoke hope.

Drawing on Lazarus and appraisal theories in general, MacInnis and de Mello suggest tactics that consumer marketing advertisements could use to induce hope. Specifically, the authors focus on turning “impossibility into possibility” and enhancing “yearning.” De Mello and MacInnis also theorize that hope can lead to motivated processing of information resulting in both positive (e.g., coping, well-being, and goal achievement) and negative (e.g., risky behavior, self-deception) outcomes. Unfortunately, the theorizing of de Mello and MacInnis was never empirically tested.

To further explore how feelings of hope are created, Prestin examined underdog narratives in entertainment media. Underdog narratives show characters who are attempting to meet a goal despite unfavorable circumstances and odds. These narratives evoke hope and make people more motivated to meet their own personal goals. Although their potential has not been fully explored, underdog narratives may assist individuals in overcoming challenging circumstances, such as battling addiction or developing new health habits. There are numerous mechanisms still to be examined that may explain the effects of underdog narratives beyond their ability to evoke hope.

Recently, Chadwick defined hope as a future-oriented, discrete emotion that focuses on an opportunity to achieve a desired future outcome. Her definition builds on the work of Lazarus and Roseman and has implications for the design of messages that evoke hope. According to Chadwick, hope is evoked by appraisals of a future outcome as (a) consistent with goals (goal congruence), (b) possible but not certain (possibility), (c) important (importance), and (d) leading to a better future (future expectation). All four of these appraisals combine to create a perception of opportunity and the discrete emotion hope. Hope motivates behavior by focusing one’s thoughts on capitalizing on an opportunity. Chadwick states that hope also involves (a) an approach action tendency that motivates individuals to take, or continue, action to achieve the desired outcome, (b) increased heart rate and skin conductance, (c) an open facial expression, heightened focus, and alert body posture, and (d) a feeling of eager attention.

Chadwick’s definition has clear implications for developing messages that evoke hope. Messages designed to create appraisals of the importance, goal congruence, positive future expectation, and possibility of a future event evoke hope and are called hope appeals. Like other theoretical explications of emotional appeals, a hope appeal has two components: (a) the inducement of hope through the presentation of an opportunity and (b) the presentation of recommended actions to achieve the desired outcome. The recommended actions component includes information designed to (a) increase the receiver’s perception of his or her ability to perform the recommended action (i.e., self-efficacy) and (b) demonstrate the ability of the recommended actions to achieve the desired outcome (i.e., response efficacy).

Empirically, scholars have tested the effects of hope and messages that evoke hope. Hope appeals increase attention to messages about climate change and increase mitigation behavioral intention and mitigation behavior. In addition, feelings of hope increase interest in climate change protection and are positively correlated with pro-environmental behaviors and support for climate change policies. Feelings of hope significantly predict interest in climate protection, self-efficacy, interpersonal communication intention, information seeking intention, and behavioral intention. Hope and hopeful narratives have also been associated with greater perceived message effectiveness and more agreement with the message content. After a stressful experience that accelerates heart rate, evoking hope decelerates heart rate and decreases state anxiety. This research provides evidence that messages that evoke hope can counter the psychological and physiological effects of stressful events. In addition, researchers have examined the effects of hope on a variety of health, persuasion, political communication, and marketing outcomes. Preliminary evidence indicates that hope appeals are equally as or more effective than guilt and fear appeals at increasing interpersonal communication intention, self-efficacy, information seeking intention, and behavioral intention. In addition, hope appeals create less reactance (anger) than fear appeals. Together these results indicate that hope and hope appeals have substantial potential to influence health and risk behavior.

Keywords: emotion, appraisals, persuasion, health communication, environmental communication, political communication, psychology, affect, health and risk message design and processing

Defining Hope

The concept of “hope” has been employed in a variety of ways in health and risk-related literature. The two dominant threads of theorizing and researching hope focus on (a) hope as a way of thinking (e.g., Snyder, 2000, 2002; Snyder, Irving, & Anderson, 1991) and (b) hope as a discrete emotion (e.g., Chadwick, 2015c; de Mello & MacInnis, 2005; Lazarus, 1999; Prestin, 2013). Each approach to hope has implications for health and risk communication; however, given substantial differences in their definitions, it is important to consider these two threads separately.

Hope as a Way of Thinking

In psychological, particularly psychotherapeutic, literature, researchers have defined and measured hope as a way of thinking, or disposition, that assists in recovery from trauma or psychological disorders, such as depression. Snyder (2002) conceives of hope “primarily as a way of thinking, with feelings playing an important, albeit contributory role” (p. 249). Hopeful thinking is seen as a way to identify strategies for achieving goals. Specifically, Snyder, Irving et al. (1991) defined hope as “a positive motivational state that is based on an interactively derived sense of successful (a) agency (goal-directed energy), and (b) pathways (planning to meet goals)” (p. 287). Pathways thinking involves identifying possible ways (i.e., pathways) to get from the current situation to a desired future situation along with a sense of confidence in the pathways (Snyder, 2002). Agency thinking is “the perceived capacity to use one’s pathways to reach desired goals” (Snyder, 2002, p. 251). A person’s pathways and agency thinking are developed dominantly during childhood, although pathways and agency thinking can be learned later as well (Snyder, 2000). Snyder (2002) categorizes people based on their pathway and agency thinking as having “high-hope” or “low-hope” dispositions, which affect how they pursue goals. Emotion plays a side role in this definition of hope in that positive and negative emotions are a product of perceived success or failure to achieve goals (Snyder, 2002). In addition, agency and pathways thinking may lead to a variety of positive and negative emotions.

To measure individual differences in dispositional hope, Snyder and colleagues developed the 12-item adult Trait Hope Scale (Snyder, Harris et al., 1991). Items on this scale include, “I can think of many ways to get out of a jam,” “I energetically pursue my goals,” and “There are lots of ways around any problem.” The eight-point response scale ranges from “definitely false” to “definitely true.” The Children’s Hope Scale (Snyder et al., 1997) is similar in content to the adult trait scale. Snyder and colleagues (1996) also developed a State Hope Scale to measure more short-term, goal-directed thinking about a particular situation. This six-item scale asks respondents to think about themselves right now and what is going on in their lives at that moment. Items on this scale include, “If I should find myself in a jam, I could think of many ways to get out of it,” “At the present time, I am energetically pursuing my goals,” and “There are lots of ways around any problem that I am facing now.” The eight-point response scale ranges from “definitely false” to “definitely true.”

Hope as a way of thinking, or dispositional hope, has been associated with benefits for physical and mental health. A hopeful disposition plays a role in prevention behaviors. For example, high-hope women have greater intentions to engage in cancer prevention behaviors than do low-hope women (Irving, Snyder, & Crowson, 1998). Numerous studies have associated higher hope with better pain management (e.g., Affleck & Tennen, 1996) and people who are higher in hope have a greater pain tolerance than people lower in hope (Snyder et al., 2005). Hope is also related to better psychological adjustment (Kwon, 2002). For example, dispositional hope helps maintain life satisfaction for gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals who face a hostile work environment (Kwon & Hugelshofer, 2010). In a recent application of dispositional hope to interpersonal relationships, Merolla (2014) found that hope is associated with positive conflict management styles, pro-relationship goals, and greater integrative problem solving. Thus, a hopeful disposition can improve well-being in interpersonal relationships.

Much of the research on dispositional hope correlates hope with a variety of positive health and non-health outcomes; however, psychotherapeutic interventions have also been designed to increase dispositional hope (e.g., Lopez, Floyd, Ulven, & Snyder, 2000; Snyder, 2000). For example, a multisession, hope-based, group intervention for older adults suffering from depression decreased hopelessness, anxiety, and functional disability and increased social behaviors (Klausner, Snyder, & Cheavens, 2000). A brief hope-based intervention using guided imagery and skills instruction led to increased hope among women and increased pain tolerance in all participants (Berg, Snyder, & Hamilton, 2008). Dispositional hope interventions typically include guided imagery in which participants are asked to think of a goal and strategies to achieve the goal. Interventions also include dialogue about why the goal is important and how to sustain motivation for that goal. In addition, participants receive instruction on strategies to enhance pathways thinking, agency, and goal-directed thinking (e.g., Berg et al., 2008). Although their potential is not yet realized, interventions for developing dispositional hope could potentially improve compliance with medical recommendations, lead to adoption of health behaviors, and decrease risk behaviors.

Hope as a Discrete Emotion

The second major thread of theorizing and researching hope defines hope as a discrete emotion. Discrete emotions are brief, intense, psychological, and evaluative reactions directed at external stimuli (e.g., people, events, or objects; Nabi, 2002; Ortony, Clore, & Collins, 1988). In response to these external stimuli, emotions help individuals adapt to their environment by activating a unique pattern of thoughts (cognitions), physiological changes, subjective feelings, motor expressions, and action (or behavioral) tendencies (see Arnold, 1960; Lazarus, 1991; Nabi, 2002; Ortony et al., 1988; Scherer, 2001). Through a global and rapid response, the action tendencies of emotions organize and motivate behavior that enhances the survival of individuals and species.

Hope has the same characteristics as all discrete emotions. Hope serves the adaptive function of creating and sustaining action toward rewarding outcomes that fulfill goals, needs, and wants. Like all discrete emotions, hope consists of (a) appraisals (i.e., assessments about the stimulus and possible future outcomes), (b) action tendencies (i.e., what the emotion makes the person want to do), (c) physiology (i.e., neural, chemical, and other physical responses in the brain and body), (d) motor expressions (i.e., facial, vocal, and postural signals of the emotion), and (e) a subjective feeling state (i.e., how the emotion feels; Roseman, 2001; Scherer, 1984). Hope’s unique pattern of appraisals, action tendencies, physiology, motor expressions, and subjective feelings are what distinguish it from other emotions (Chadwick, 2015c; Scherer, Schorr, & Johnstone, 2001).

Lazarus’s cognitive-mediational theory (Lazarus, 2001) has been one of the most influential emotion theories that includes a definition of hope. A key principle of this theory is that emotion comes from the way people appraise what is happening around them (i.e., cognitive mediation). Lazarus (1991) identifies the core relational theme of hope as “fearing the worst but yearning for better” (p. 282). Lazarus (1991) deems hope to be a “problematic emotion” because he believes that hope contains both positive and negative elements. Because of hope’s core relational theme, according to Lazarus, one needs to be in a negative situation to feel hope; therefore, there is an element of anxiety inherent in hope, making it a somewhat negative emotion. However, hope is more positive than hopelessness and the outcomes of hope are typically positive; therefore, hope also has positive elements (Lazarus, 1991). Thus, in his definition, Lazarus focuses both on the present and future situation. Lazarus (1991) also deems hope to be a problematic emotion because he is uncertain about its action tendency and the physiological changes inherent in the emotion.

Despite uncertainty of the exact nature of hope, Lazarus (1999) believes that hope is vital to coping with stress. In particular, hope can motivate efforts to improve an unsatisfactory situation. Hope enables people to believe in the possibility of better circumstances and therefore is critical as a coping mechanism against despair (Lazarus, 1999). Although hope is vital to coping, how to design health and risk messages to assist with coping is unclear from Lazarus’s work.

Drawing on Lazarus and appraisal theories in general, MacInnis and de Mello (2005) suggest tactics that consumer marketing advertisements could use to induce hope. Specifically, the authors focus on turning “impossibility into possibility” and enhancing “yearning” (p. 3). In addition, MacInnis and de Mello (2005) theorize that by creating hope in advertisements, marketers can avoid the potentially negative effects of warning consumers about risks associated with product use, such that “stronger levels of hope [will be] associated with stronger perceptions that product usage does not result in negative consequences” (p. 10). This theory fits with research suggesting that negative emotions often lead to an overestimation of risk whereas positive emotions lead to an underestimation of risk (Bowen et al., 2003). De Mello and MacInnis (2005) also theorize that hope can lead to motivated processing of information such that hope may result in both positive (e.g., coping, well-being, and goal achievement) and negative (e.g., risky behavior, self-deception) outcomes. Unfortunately, the theorizing of de Mello and MacInnis was never empirically tested.

To understand the role of hope in entertainment media, Prestin (2013) explored the ability of an “underdog” narrative to evoke hope. Underdog narratives show characters who are attempting to meet a goal despite unfavorable circumstances and odds. Prestin’s experiment demonstrated that people in the underdog condition felt more hope than others and were more motivated to pursue their own goals. The hope evoked by the underdog condition remained above baseline for up to three days following exposure to the underdog narrative (Prestin, 2013). Therefore, one way to create hope and encourage achievement of personal goals is through presenting individuals with underdog narratives. Although their potential has not been fully explored, underdog narratives may assist individuals in overcoming challenging circumstances, such as battling addiction or developing new health habits. There are numerous mechanisms still to be explored that may explain the effects of underdog narratives beyond their ability to evoke hope.

Recently, Chadwick (2015c) defined hope as a future-oriented, discrete emotion that focuses on an opportunity to achieve a desired future outcome. Her definition builds on the work of Lazarus (1991, 1999) and Roseman (1991, 2001) and has implications for the design of messages that evoke hope. Chadwick (2010, 2015c) defines hope as a discrete emotion that involves appraisals of a stimulus as novel and relevant to a future or unknown outcome, consistent with goals, possible but not certain, important, and consistent with a better future. The four appraisals of goal congruence, importance, future expectation, and possibility combine to create a sense of opportunity to achieve a desired future outcome. Opportunity is a core construct for hope in the same way that threat is a core construct for fear. Because Chadwick provides the most complete definition of hope and identifies how to create messages that evoke hope, her theory of persuasive hope is discussed in detail.

Theory of Persuasive Hope

Chadwick (2010, 2015c) developed her definition of hope in the context of persuasive communication (i.e., with the goal of influencing attitudes, beliefs, and behavior). The theory of persuasive hope defines hope as a discrete emotion and identifies the appraisals that evoke hope. In addition, the theory describes the action tendency, physiology, motor expressions, and subjective feeling state of hope. According to Chadwick, hope is evoked by appraisals of a future outcome as (a) consistent with goals (goal congruence), (b) possible but not certain (possibility), (c) important (importance), and (d) leading to a better future (future expectation; Chadwick, 2015c). All four of these appraisals combine to create a perception of opportunity and the discrete emotion hope (Chadwick, 2015c). Hope motivates behavior by focusing one’s thoughts on capitalizing on an opportunity. Chadwick (2010, 2015c) states that hope also involves (a) an approach action tendency that motivates individuals to take, or continue, action to achieve the desired outcome, (b) increased heart rate and skin conductance, (c) an open facial expression, heightened focus, and alert body posture, and (d) a feeling of eager attention.

Appraisals

In defining hope, Chadwick (2010) separates appraisals about a stimulus in the present environment and appraisals about a possible future outcome for which the stimulus has implications. The appraisals that create hope focus first on the stimulus or change in the environment and second on the future outcome for which the stimulus has implications (Chadwick, 2010). For example, a news story about a promising new cancer treatment (stimulus) may cause a person with cancer to feel hope about successfully treating her cancer (future outcome). Similarly, a discovery of a technology for powering vehicle engines without greenhouse gas emissions (stimulus) might lead a person to feel hope about slowing climate change (future outcome). Appraisals of the stimulus occur first followed by appraisals of the outcome. Otherwise, there is no fixed order to the appraisals, and they are concurrent and mutually influencing (Chadwick, 2010). Although the order of the appraisals is not fixed, all of the appraisals must be present for hope to occur (Chadwick, 2015c).

Appraisals of the Stimulus

The first set of appraisals focuses on the stimulus (i.e., the change in the environment) that initiates hope. The stimulus signals an opportunity and may encourage an individual to take advantage of that opportunity. The stimulus may signal changes in the real or appraised possibility of a desired outcome, the possibility of a new outcome, an increase in the importance or goal congruence of the outcome, a vision for a better future, or that the outcome is more imminent (Chadwick, 2010). For example, a new cancer treatment and the discovery of an emissions-free engine both increase the possibility of a desired outcome (i.e., curing cancer and decreasing fossil fuel emissions).

To experience hope, an individual must first appraise a stimulus as novel and relevant to a desired future outcome. Emotions arise in response to environmental conditions; therefore, the first step in feeling any emotion is noticing a change (i.e., something novel) in the environment (Scherer, 2001). This appraisal is extremely rapid and is likely to be nonconscious and reflexive like an orienting response. Once individuals notice a stimulus, they must assess whether the stimulus has implications for (i.e., relevance to) their well-being, goals, needs, and desires (Lazarus, 1991, 2001; Scherer, 2001). In particular, for hope to occur, the stimulus must be relevant to a desired future outcome. If an individual appraises the stimulus as irrelevant, no further appraisals occur and the individual does not feel any emotion (Chadwick, 2010).

Appraisals of the Outcome

The second set of appraisals focuses on a future or unknown outcome for which the stimulus has implications (Chadwick, 2010, 2015c). Unlike most emotions, hope is directed toward future outcomes or outcomes about which the individual does not have information (i.e., unknown outcomes). Thus, hope is associated with the human ability to “flexibly represent future events, imagine diverse possible outcomes, and act in light of those representations” (Bruininks & Malle, 2005, p. 327). The experience of hope requires that individuals generate expectations about the future and base their feelings on those expectations, rather than on what is currently happening (Bruininks & Malle, 2005; Reading, 2004). Thus, hope is an emotion directed toward possible outcomes that have not yet occurred. The rare exception to this rule is that individuals can feel hope about outcomes that have occurred or are occurring, but about which the individuals have no information. Thus, the targets of hope are future or unknown outcomes (Chadwick, 2010, 2015c).

The future or unknown outcome that is that target of hope may be the achievement of a desired state or reward or the avoidance of a negative or punishing state (Ben-Ze’ev, 2000; Roseman, 1991, 2001). For example, a message may have implications for reducing greenhouse gas emissions (achievement of a desired outcome) or for avoiding dangerous climate change (avoiding a negative outcome). One might question whether hoping to avoid a negative outcome is really fearing the negative outcome. Although hope and fear are two sides of a coin, they are phenomenologically different. Which emotion an individual feels depends on his or her appraisals. Thus, individuals might hope to avoid dangerous climate change or fear the effects of dangerous climate change, depending on whether they assessed the stimulus as an opportunity (in which case they would feel hope) or as a threat (in which case they would feel fear). In the process of appraising and reappraising, hope can be transformed into fear, distress, or despair and vice versa (Lazarus, 2001). In studying suspenseful commercials, Alwitt (2002) found that suspense was created by alternating reactions of fear of a negative outcome and hope for escaping that outcome. Thus, hoping to escape a negative situation and fearing the same negative situation are empirically, as well as phenomenologically, different.

The outcome appraisals that make up hope include evaluations of goal congruence, possibility, importance, and future expectation (Chadwick, 2015c). All four appraisals combine to create a perception of an opportunity and to evoke the emotion hope. There are validated measures for each of these appraisals (Parrott, Smith, & Chadwick, 2015).

Goal congruence. Goal congruence is an assessment of whether conditions are favorable or unfavorable to achieving relevant goals (Lazarus, 2001). Goals include various learned and innate motivational constructs including needs, drives, instincts, motives, and concerns. To feel hope, individuals must appraise the future or unknown outcome as consistent with, or favorable to, their goals or motives (Chadwick, 2010, 2015c). If a future outcome is not consistent with their goals, individuals will not feel hope but will feel another emotion, most likely fear. As mentioned previously, goals may be to attain desired outcomes or rewards or to avoid negative outcomes or punishments. For example, a stimulus may be congruent with a person’s goal of being healthy (achievement of a desired outcome) or with his or her goal of avoiding cancer (avoiding a negative outcome).

Possibility. An appraisal of possibility involves a subjective assessment of the likelihood of the future outcome (Scherer, 2001). To experience hope, an individual must appraise the desired outcome as possible, but not certain (Chadwick, 2010, 2015c). If the possibility of achieving the desired outcome is certain, then an individual experiences other positive emotions, such as happiness or relief, rather than hope. If an individual appraises the desired outcome as impossible, then he or she feels sadness or distress (Roseman, 2001). Thus, for someone to feel hope, he or she must appraise the future outcome as possible but not certain or impossible. It is critical to note that an individual’s subjective appraisal of possibility need not be related to actual probability. People can convince themselves that the possibility of the hoped-for outcome is more likely than it actually is (Averill, Catlin, & Chon, 1990), and people often continue to hope even when an outcome becomes increasingly unlikely (Bruininks & Malle, 2005).

Importance. An appraisal of importance is an assessment of how personally relevant the future outcome is. For hope to occur, the future or unknown outcome must be important or personally relevant to the individual. Thus, to feel hope in response to a message about climate change mitigation, slowing down or lessening climate change must be important to the individual (e.g., is part of his or her value system) or must be personally relevant (e.g., he or she lives in coastal Florida only one foot above sea level). The appraisal of importance is distinguished from the appraisal of stimulus relevance in that the appraisal of relevance focuses on a stimulus or change in the environment, whereas the appraisal of importance focuses on the outcome for which the stimulus has implications (Chadwick, 2010, 2015c).

Future expectation. Future expectation is an appraisal about whether the future will become better or worse if the outcome was to occur (Lazarus, 2001). To elicit hope, the future outcome must be appraised as creating a better future (i.e., a positive future expectation). This better future may include achievement of rewards or escape from punishments. For example, in the case of climate change, the better future may mean that climate change does not become as dangerous as projected, that dangerous climate change is prevented, or that the climate improves. Thus, a person who believes that reducing greenhouse gas emissions will make the future better will feel hope in response to messages that signal an opportunity to reduce his or her greenhouse gas emissions.

Together, the appraisals of goal congruence, possibility, importance, and future expectation create a perception of an opportunity to achieve a desired future outcome. There is no fixed order to the appraisals, and they are concurrent and mutually influencing (Chadwick, 2010). Although the order of the appraisals is not fixed, all four appraisals must be present for hope to occur (Chadwick, 2015c). Together the appraisals create an approach action tendency.

Action Tendency

All discrete emotions have an action tendency, which is what the emotion causes an individual to want to do. The action tendency of hope is an approach tendency (Carver & White, 1994; Cosmides & Tooby, 2000; Davidson, 1992), stimulating actual or preparatory movement toward the desired outcome. The action tendency of hope functions to keep people focused on their goals, to sustain motivation, and to help control negative feelings (Chadwick, 2010; Lazarus, 1991). Thus, for individuals who want to help mitigate climate change or want to avoid the negative consequences of climate change, hope will cause them to take action to achieve these desired outcomes. In addition, hope may maintain current movement toward the desired outcome, causing the individuals to “remain vigilant, mobilized, and committed” to the outcome (Lazarus, 1991, p. 285). For individuals who are already taking action to help mitigate climate change, hope maintains their motivation to continue to take mitigation action and prevents them from becoming dispirited about the current situation related to climate change.

Physiology

Because the action tendency of hope involves preparing to act, hope, like other emotions that prepare individuals to act, physiologically manifests as an increase in heart rate, heightened attention and focus, and an increase in neurological activity in the skin (i.e., skin conductance; Chadwick, 2010; Roseman, 2001). The increase in heart rate speeds the provision of oxygen and nutrients to the muscles in preparation for physical action. Heightened attention and focus allow the individual to rapidly process environmental stimuli, which enables him or her to take advantage of the opportunity presented by the stimulus (Chadwick, 2010). The increase in neurological activity of the skin is an indication of an individual’s increased preparation for faster neurological reactions that enable quick movement.

Motor Expression

Like the physiological reactions, the motor expressions of hope allow individuals to rapidly take in and process environmental stimuli that prepare them for action. This action allows the individual to take advantage of the opportunity presented by the stimulus. The facial expression of hope is one of raised eyebrows, widened eyes, and focused attention (Roseman, 2001). In hope, the body posture is erect, often with a slight forward lean and muscular tension (Chadwick, 2010). It is the combination of these motor expressions, rather than any one expression, that distinguishes hope from other emotions.

Subjective Feeling

The subjective feeling of hope (i.e., how hope feels) is a feeling of eagerness, anticipation, and readiness (Roseman, 2001). Individuals feel this eagerness for achieving the desired outcome or avoiding the negative outcome.

Designing Hope Appeals

Chadwick’s (2010, 2015c) definition of hope has clear implications for developing messages that evoke hope. As part of her theory of persuasive hope, Chadwick (2010, 2015c) describes how to create hope appeals. A hope appeal is a message designed to create the appraisals that evoke hope. To induce hope, a message should emphasize that the future outcome (a) is possible, (b) is important, (c) is consistent with the receiver’s goals, and (d) will create a more positive future (Chadwick, 2015c). As recommended by O’Keefe (2003), persuasive hope appeals are defined by intrinsic message features rather than the message’s effects. Thus, a persuasive hope appeal is a hope appeal because it contains elements designed to create the appraisals of hope, not merely because a receiver feels hope (Chadwick, 2015c).

Like other theoretical explications of emotional appeals (e.g., fear appeals as discussed by Witte, 1992; Witte & Allen, 2000), a persuasive hope appeal has two components: (a) the inducement of hope through the presentation of an opportunity and (b) the presentation of recommended actions to achieve the desired outcome (Chadwick, 2015c). The recommended actions component includes information designed to (a) increase the receiver’s perception of his or her ability to perform the recommended action (self-efficacy) and (b) demonstrate the ability of the recommended action to achieve the desired outcome (response efficacy).

Inducement of Hope

To induce hope, a message must present an opportunity to the receiver. There are several tactics that can create this opportunity and evoke hope, including (a) increasing the possibility of an important outcome, (b) raising the goal congruence of a possible, important outcome, (c) heightening the importance of a possible, goal congruent outcome, and/or (d) creating a vision for a better future if the outcome occurs (Chadwick, 2010). A hope appeal does not have to employ all these tactics in one message.

The appraisals of importance, goal congruence, positive future expectation, and possibility all must be present for a person to feel hope. However, the hope appeal does not need to address all four appraisals if the audience already holds beliefs and attitudes that are consistent with the appraisals. For example, a climate protection message for environmentalists may not need to include components that address importance, goal congruence, or positive future expectation because the audience likely already believes climate protection to be important, goal congruent, and positive for the future. The mere mention of climate protection may be enough to evoke these appraisals. Therefore, a message might only address the possibility of mitigating climate change but will still elicit all four of the appraisals necessary to evoke hope and hence meet the definition of a hope appeal (Chadwick, 2010).

Recommended Actions

Once a message has evoked hope via one or more of the previously mentioned tactics, the message must present recommended actions that the audience can perform to achieve the hoped-for future outcome (Chadwick, 2010, 2015c). It is important that messages explicitly link the recommended action to the desired future outcome. A message might include only one recommended action or multiple actions. These actions may range from seeking information to complete lifestyle changes. In general, explicitly identifying the recommended action and the steps, if any, involved in the action is more effective than implicitly hinting at recommended actions (Witte, Meyer, & Martell, 2001). As with other emotional appeals, the recommended actions component should include information designed to (a) increase the receivers’ perception of their ability to perform the recommended action (self-efficacy) and (b) demonstrate the ability of the recommended action to achieve the desired outcome (response efficacy; Floyd, Prentice-Dunn, & Rogers, 2000; Witte, 1992). Although self-efficacy and response efficacy are both beliefs about ability, they focus on different types of ability. Self-efficacy focuses on individual ability to perform behavior, whereas response efficacy focuses on the ability of a behavior to affect circumstances.

Self-efficacy is the degree to which receivers believe that they are able to perform the recommended response successfully and to exert control over their lives (Bandura, 1986). Self-efficacy is an important predictor of individual behavior (e.g., Godin & Kok, 1996; Schwarzer & Fuchs, 1995). Communicators can enhance self-efficacy by describing actions as simple or easy and by clearly articulating the steps that are part of the action to reduce the receiver’s uncertainty. In addition, messages can include statements of encouragement (e.g., “You can do it.”) to raise self-efficacy.

Response efficacy is the receiver’s perception of the ability of the recommended action to achieve the desired outcome (Floyd et al., 2000). Like self-efficacy, response efficacy is related to behavioral intentions and behavior (Floyd et al., 2000). Messages can raise perceived response efficacy by demonstrating the connection between the recommended action and the future outcome. In addition, communicators can provide credible sources that support this connection. For example, to raise response efficacy, a message about climate protection can identify how the recommended actions can help protect the climate by indicating in what way, and by how much, greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced by the action.

Anticipated Effects of Messages That Evoke Hope

By manipulating the appraisals that are likely to be evoked by a message and thus inducing emotion, communicators can influence persuasive outcomes. The evocation of hope in a hope appeal should affect message attention and interest in the topic of the message. The combination of the evocation of hope and the recommended behavior and efficacy messages should affect behavioral intention and behavior (Chadwick, 2010).

Message Attention

The focused, eager feeling and physiology of hope should increase generalized attention. As the source of the feeling of hope, the persuasive message is likely to attract attention. According to the cognitive-functional model (Nabi, 1999) a person’s attention to a message is a function of his or her expectation that the message contains goal-relevant information. If a receiver expects the message to provide that information, he or she is motivated to process the information (Nabi, 1999, 2002). Thus, attention to a persuasive hope appeal is amplified by the extent to which the receiver expects the message to help him or her achieve desired outcomes. Indeed, research demonstrates that hope appeals increase attention to messages (Chadwick, 2015c).

Interest

Subjective feelings of hope evoked in response to a hope appeal should increase generalized interest in the topic of the message. By making a positive outcome more important, goal congruent, and possible, a persuasive hope appeal stimulates increased interest in that outcome. Inherently, an important, goal-congruent outcome is interesting and involving. Heightening the importance, goal congruence, or possibility, and/or decreasing the temporal distance of that outcome should lead to increased interest. In political communication, enthusiasm, which was measured using hope as one of the items in the scale, led to increased interest and involvement (Marcus & MacKuen, 1993). Additionally, increased interest and involvement should lead to more systematic processing (Petty & Cacioppo, 1986) and greater behavioral intentions. Research has shown that feelings of hope lead to increased interest in the message topic (Chadwick, 2015c).

Self-Efficacy and Response Efficacy

The recommended action component of the hope appeal, which includes self-efficacy and response efficacy statements, should directly increase self-efficacy and response efficacy. As mentioned previously, self-efficacy is the degree to which a receiver believes that he or she is able to perform the recommended response successfully, and response efficacy is the receiver’s perception of the ability of the recommended behavior to achieve the desired outcome. Stronger self-efficacy beliefs are associated with greater behavioral intentions and actual behavior (Bandura, 1986). Higher response efficacy is associated with greater behavioral intentions (Witte, Meyer, & Martell, 2001). Persuasive hope appeals directly attempt to increase both self-efficacy and response efficacy, thus they should be associated with higher self-efficacy and higher response efficacy. Preliminary data indicates that both hope and hope appeals increase self-efficacy (Chadwick, 2015a, 2015b). Response efficacy was not measured in these studies.

Behavioral Intention and Behavior

Emotions that are evoked by persuasive messages directly affect behavioral intention by arousing the action tendency associated with the emotion. Persuasive hope appeals evoke an approach tendency that stimulates actual or preparatory action toward the desired outcome. Hope encourages the formation of sub-goals for achieving the behavior, reinforces goal commitment, and strengthens motivation (de Mello & MacInnis, 2005; Marcus & MacKuen, 1993). Behavioral intention, in turn, influences actual behavior (Fishbein & Capella, 2006). Therefore, the action tendency evoked by a hope appeal should drive a receiver to perform the recommended behaviors that will enable him or her to achieve the desired outcome. Extant research has demonstrated that hope appeals increase both behavioral intention and behavior (Chadwick, 2010, 2015a, 2015b).

Applications of the Discrete Emotion Hope and Hope Appeals

Hope and hope appeals have been studied in a variety of contexts. In persuasion, hope and hope appeals have been applied to environmental and health communication to affect behavior and behavioral antecedents. Within health, messages that evoke hope have been examined for their effect on stress and coping.

Persuasion

Research on the persuasive effects of hope and hope appeals is relatively nascent; however, hope and hope appeals show promise for encouraging engagement with climate protective behaviors and behavioral antecedents. Hope appeals increase attention to messages about climate change (Chadwick, 2015c). Hope appeals also increase mitigation behavioral intention and behavior (Chadwick, 2010). In addition, feelings of hope increase interest in climate change protection (Chadwick, 2015c) and are positively correlated with pro-environmental behaviors and support for climate change policies (Lorenzoni, Nicholson-Cole, & Whitmarsh, 2007). Feelings of hope significantly predict interest in climate protection, self-efficacy, interpersonal communication attention, information seeking intention, and behavioral intention (Chadwick, 2015b). Preliminary evidence indicates that hope appeals are equally as, or more effective than, both fear and guilt appeals at increasing interpersonal communication intention, self-efficacy, information seeking intention, and behavioral intention in the context of climate protection. In addition, hope appeals create less reactance (i.e., anger) than fear appeals (Chadwick, 2015a, 2015b). Hope and hopeful narratives have also been associated with greater perceived message effectiveness and more agreement with message content (Volkman & Parrott, 2012). As mentioned previously, underdog narratives evoke hope and create greater intentions to pursue personal goals (Prestin, 2013).

Stress and Coping

Hope appeals may aid in managing stress and coping. After a stressful experience that accelerates heart rate and creates anxiety, evoking hope decelerates heart rate and decreases state anxiety (Chadwick, Zoccola, Figueroa, & Rabideau, 2016). In a comparison of a hope evocation message with distraction and rumination messages, a hope evocation message resulted in the lowest post-stressor heart rate. Both the hope evocation message and the distraction message decreased state anxiety. The hope evocation and distraction messages also increased positive emotions and decreased negative emotions (Chadwick et al., 2016). The most likely mechanism by which messages that evoke hope affect stress is reappraisal (Chadwick et al., 2016; Lazarus, 1991). By focusing the receiver’s thoughts on how the stressor could signal a potential future opportunity, messages that evoke hope can cause people to reappraise a stressor as an opportunity. This research provides evidence that messages that evoke hope can counter the psychological and physiological effects of stressful events. In addition, the research provides evidence that messages that evoke hope may be a form of supportive communication that can decrease stress.

Conclusion

Both dispositional hope and hope as a discrete emotion have implications for health and risk communication. Specifically, dispositional hope is associated with increased likelihood of prevention behaviors, improved recovery from distress, decreased pain, and better psychological adjustment. The discrete emotion hope has been associated with changes in behavior, behavior intention, interest, information seeking, interpersonal communication, and self-efficacy. Although research demonstrates hope’s importance for encouraging positive health behaviors and decreasing risks, much of hope’s potential is unexplored.

Historiography

The concept of “hope” has been employed in a variety of ways in health and risk-related literature. The two dominant threads of theorizing and researching hope focus on hope as a way of thinking (e.g., Snyder, 2000, 2002; Snyder, Irving, & Anderson, 1991) and hope as a discrete emotion (e.g., Chadwick, 2015c; de Mello & MacInnis, 2005; Lazarus, 1999; Prestin, 2013). Initial theories of dispositional hope and the discrete emotion of hope developed in parallel (Lazarus, 1991; Snyder, Irving et al., 1991). Although both theories have implications for health and risk messaging, the potential of each theory for health and risk communication went largely unexplored. More recently, a theory of persuasive hope (Chadwick, 2010, 2015c) defined hope as a discrete emotion evoked by a sense of opportunity. The theory also detailed how to create messages that evoke hope and the consequences of these hope appeals. Although nascent, research into the effects of hope appeals for health and risk communication is promising.

Further Reading

Averill, J. R., Catlin, G., & Chon, K. K. (1990). The rules of hope. New York: Springer-Verlag.Find this resource:

Bruininks, P., & Malle, B. F. (2005). Distinguishing hope from optimism and related affective states. Motivation and Emotion, 29, 327–355.Find this resource:

Chadwick, A. E. (2015). Toward a theory of persuasive hope: Effects of cognitive appraisals, hope appeals, and hope in the context of climate change. Health Communication, 30, 598–611.Find this resource:

Chadwick, A. E., Zoccola, P. M., Figueroa, W. S., & Rabideau, E. M. (2016). Communication and stress: Effects of hope evocation and rumination messages on heart rate, anxiety, and emotions after a stressor. Health Communication, 31, 1447–1459.Find this resource:

de Mello, G., & MacInnis, D. J. (2005). Why and how consumers hope: Motivated reasoning and the marketplace. In S. Ratneshwar & D. G. Mick (Eds.), Inside consumption: Consumer motives, goals, and desires (pp. 44–66). New York: Routledge.Find this resource:

Lazarus, R. S. (1991). Emotion and adaptation. New York: Oxford University Press.Find this resource:

Lazarus, R. S. (1999). Hope: An emotion and a vital coping resource against despair. Social Research, 66, 653–678.Find this resource:

Parrott, R. L., Smith, R. A., & Chadwick, A. E. (2015). Uncertainty and uncertainty management. In D. K. Kim & J. Dearing (Eds.), Health communication measures (pp. 255–264). New York: Peter Lang.Find this resource:

Prestin, A. (2013). The pursuit of hopefulness: Operationalizing hope in entertainment media narratives. Media Psychology, 16, 318–346.Find this resource:

Scherer, K. R., Schorr, A., & Johnstone, T. (2001). Appraisal processes in emotion. New York: Oxford University Press.Find this resource:

Snyder, C. R. (2000). The handbook of hope: Theory, measures, and applications. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.Find this resource:

Snyder, C. R. (2002). Hope theory: Rainbows in the mind. Psychological Inquiry, 13, 249–275.Find this resource:

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