Research Questions

We funded projects that explored the following Research Questions.


  1. What is hope? To what other traits or states is it importantly related and how? How might hope be reliably measured in individuals or groups?
  2. What are the correlations, causal relations, and/or explanatory relationships that hold between optimism, pessimism, and their correlates? For example, is optimism beneficial, or is pessimism toxic, or both? What aspects of optimism and pessimism account for their beneficial or toxic effects?
  3. How central are hope and optimism to human physical, emotional, and mental health? Can individuals flourish without them?
  4. Can optimism be irrational? If so, in what sense and under what conditions?
  5. Is there such a thing as “false hope”? If so, how can it be distinguished from “true hope”?
  6. Which psychological mechanisms underlie hope and optimism? For example, how do affective, motivational, and cognitive processes differentially contribute to optimism and influence one another? Does hope have positive or negative affective components, both, or neither? Are dual- (or multi-) process models of hope and optimism empirically plausible, and, if so, what is handled by System-1, System-2, etc.?
  7. How do hope and optimism develop? What are their genetic, environmental, and familial influences?
  8. Can hope and optimism be taught? What pedagogical methods are most effective for instilling hope and optimism among those who might benefit from them?
  9. How can the different conceptualizations of hope and optimism best be distinguished?


  1. What is hope? How might hope be reliably measured across cultures and social institutions?
  2. What are the social dynamics related to hope and/or optimism? Is hope contagious; if so, what facilitates its transmission? Does optimism have social functions; if so, what are they?
  3. What are the underlying societal, cultural, institutional, familial, religious, and environmental mechanisms that promote optimism?
  4. What are hope inspiring strategies for persons in a variety of life circumstances?
  5. What accounts for the small yet significant differences in levels of optimism across cultures? How do the causes, effects, mechanisms, and expressions of hope and optimism differ across circumstances, cultures, and other domains?
  6. What are the functions of hope and optimism, and the ways in which they are promoted, within the domains of democratic politics, education, and work?
  7. How do the objects of hope and/or optimism vary across age, race, gender, socioeconomic status, or health condition? What might ethnographic studies of hope or optimism reveal?
  8. What values are reflected in different forms of optimism and optimism promotion?
  9. Is the hope offered by religious doctrine and praxis different in kind or in degree from non-religious sources? How do levels of hope and/or optimism compare in non-Judeo-Christian, non-Western religious contexts? What feature(s) of such religious contexts contribute to higher or lower levels of hope and/or optimism?