Assignment: Feeling Hopeful

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Katharine H. Greenaway University of Queensland

Aleksandra Cichocka University of Kent

Ruth van Veelen University of Groningen

Tiina Likki University of Lausanne

Nyla R. Branscombe University of Kansas

Hope is an emotion that has been implicated in social change efforts, yet little research has examined whether feeling hopeful actually motivates support for social change. Study 1 (N = 274) confirmed that hope is associated with greater support for social change in two countries with different political contexts. Study 2 (N = 165) revealed that hope predicts support for social change over and above other emotions often investi- gated in collective action research. Study 3 (N = 100) replicated this finding using a hope scale and showed the effect occurs independent of positive mood. Study 4 (N = 58) demonstrated experimentally that hope motivates support for social change. In all four studies, the effect of hope was mediated by perceived efficacy to achieve social equality. This research confirms the motivating potential of hope and illustrates the power of this emotion in generating social change.

KEY WORDS: Hope, social change, perceived efficacy, intergroup relations

People have long recognized the power of emotions in motivating social action, although research has typically focused on the role of negative emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt (e.g., Mackie, Devos, & Smith, 2000; Wohl, Branscombe, & Klar, 2006). In a refreshing new direction, calls have been made to consider the motivating potential of positive emotions as catalysts for social change, particularly among advantaged group members who are typically regarded either as passive beneficiaries of inequality or active combatants of social change (Thomas, McGarty, & Mavor, 2009). The present research focuses on hope as a positive emotion that has the potential to propel people into social action. In particular, hope may hold the key to motivating advantaged groups to assist in achieving social change.

Political Psychology, Vol. xx, No. xx, 2014 doi: 10.1111/pops.12225


0162-895X © 2014 International Society of Political Psychology Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc., 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford, OX4 2DQ,

and PO Box 378 Carlton South, 3053 Victoria, Australia

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0162-895X VC 2014 International Society of Political Psychology

Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc., 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford, OX4 2DQ,

and PO Box 378 Carlton South, 3053 Victoria, Australia

Political Psychology, Vol. 37, No. 1, 2016

doi: 10.1111/pops.12225


What Is Hope?

Hope is a future-oriented emotion that is experienced in the present when an individual believes that current circumstances can and should change (Baumgartner, Pieters, & Bagozzi, 2008). It involves generating future alternatives to compare against present circumstances and feeling good about those future alternatives (Staats & Stassen, 1985). Hope is therefore an emotion that pairs positive feelings about the future with a desire for present circumstances to change (Lazarus, 1991, 1999).

Research has identified appraisals that generate hope and action tendencies that follow from experiencing hope (Frijda, 1986). In terms of appraisals, hope is experienced when one visualizes a future goal that has at least a moderate chance of being achieved (Lazarus, 1999). Although researchers have speculated that hope should be associated with readiness to take action directed toward achieving a desired outcome (Averill, Catlin, & Chon, 1990), the specific action tendencies that stem from hope are less clear (Lazarus, 1999).

Hope and Social Change

Emerging research has begun to investigate hope in the context of intractable intergroup conflicts (e.g., Halperin, Crisp, Husnu, Dweck, & Gross 2012). Feeling hopeful in the context of such conflicts is associated with positive intergroup outcomes. For example, in the case of intractable conflicts, hope predicts lower desire for retaliation (Moeschberger, Dixon, Niens, & Cairns, 2005), support for concessions (Cohen-Chen, Halperin, Crisp, & Gross, 2013), willingness to provide intergroup aid (Halperin & Gross, 2011), and reduced dehumanization of out-groups (Halperin, Bar-Tal, Nets-Zehngut, & Almog, 2008). We investigate hope in relation to intergroup contexts that involve ongoing inequality with clear advantaged majority and disadvantaged minority groups. We are particularly interested in methods of encouraging advantaged groups to take action on behalf of disadvantaged groups. This can be difficult to achieve, given that advantaged groups are often motivated to inhibit, rather than support, social change (e.g., Jost, Banaji, & Nosek, 2004; Sidanius & Pratto, 2001). A critical question, therefore, is how to motivate advantaged groups to support social action that ultimately threatens their privileged position.

There are reasons to expect that hope might inspire support for social change. Anecdotally, political leaders successfully generate support for social change by using messages of hope to inspire their followers (Branzei, 2012; Obama, 2006). Indeed, Barack Obama was elected as the first African American President of the United States after campaigning on a platform of hope and change. Likewise, Martin Luther King Jr. appealed to hope to mobilize support for the civil rights movement (Washington, 1991). Although researchers have begun to take an interest in hope in intergroup contexts, most studies to date investigate hope as an outcome or treat it as a mediator (e.g., Halperin & Gross, 2011). While research has shown that a belief in change generates feelings of hope (e.g., Cohen-Chen et al., 2013), the opposite path has not been investigated. It is therefore unclear whether hope can be used to generate support for social change or if it is merely a by-product of believing change is possible, or whether both processes operate.

What Kind of Hope?

It is possible to experience hope about a specific situation or event (e.g., hoping an intergroup relationship will become more equal), although individuals may also vary in their general tendency to hope. In the present research, we investigate whether hope must be connected specifically to an intergroup context in order to inspire support for social change. It seems intuitive that people must hope that intergroup relations can get better in order to be willing to work towards achieving that end.

Greenaway et al.290 Greenaway et al.

Yet theory suggests that incidental hope that is unconnected to an intergroup context might also “spill over” into a general desire for things to change (Lazarus, 1991, 1999). We therefore investigated hope that is unconnected to a specific intergroup relationship (Studies 1, 2, and 4), as well as hope with a specific intergroup referent (Studies 3 and 4) to investigate whether hope increases support for social change.

In the present research, we focus on individual feelings of hope and their implications for collective behavior. Although collective feelings of hope for the future of one’s own group may motivate a similar desire for social change, we investigate how feeling hopeful might lead advan- taged group members to support disadvantaged group members in their efforts to achieve social equality. In addition to testing whether and what type of hope motivates support for social change, we also aim to uncover a mechanism of this effect.

Hope and Efficacy

We propose that hope inspires support for social change through heightened perceived efficacy to change the status quo. According to Snyder (2002), hope acts through processes of agency and planning—key characteristics of the efficacious individual (Bandura, 1982). In addition, hope is associated with a range of processes linked with perceived efficacy, including beliefs that goals are achievable (Lazarus, 1999) and engagement in goal-directed thinking and behavior (Chartrand & Cheng, 2002; Oettingen & Gollwitzer, 2002; Vohs & Schmeichel, 2002). Work by Cohen-Chen and colleagues (2013, 2014) shows that believing a situation can change inspires feelings of hope and efficacy. However, other theorizing suggests that efficacy may be an outcome or process of hope, insofar as hope is thought to operate through pathways of agency and planning (Averill et al., 1990; Snyder, Irving, & Anderson, 1991; Snyder, 2002). Consistent with this theorizing, we conceptualize hope as a positive emotion that has the capacity to generate perceived efficacy to bring about desired outcomes.

Efficacy and Social Change

Considerable research demonstrates that efficacy beliefs play a critical role in motivating people to collective action (e.g., Tausch & Becker, 2013; Thomas, Mavor, & McGarty, 2012; Van Zomeren, Postmes, & Spears, 2008); people must believe change is possible in order to be motivated to achieve it (Bandura, 1982). Much of the research that investigates the role of efficacy in social change efforts has focused on disadvantaged group members attempting to improve their group’s position (e.g., Van Zomeren et al., 2008). However, research also demonstrates that enhancing efficacy beliefs among advantaged group members increases their willingness to work to achieve social equality (e.g., Cohen-Chen, Halperin, Saguy, & Van Zomeren, 2014; Stewart, Latu, Branscombe, & Denney, 2010; Stewart, Latu, Branscombe, Phillips, & Denney, 2012). Indeed, efforts at collective action will have a better chance at succeeding if advantaged group members can be motivated to act alongside disadvantaged groups.

The Present Research

The present research seeks to contribute to the literature on hope and bring this emotion to bear on the important social problem of how to motivate support for social change among advantaged members of society. First, we integrate the work on hope as an emotion with the social change literature. Second, drawing on previous research, we test efficacy as a mechanism through which hope operates to influence support for social change. We assess both perceived advantaged and disadvantaged group efficacy as mediators of the relationship between hope and support for social change and propose that

Hope and Social Change 3

Snyder, 2002; Snyder, Irving, & Anderson, 1991). Consistent with this theorizing, we conceptualize

Hope and Social Change 91

only when advantaged groups believe themselves to be efficacious—regardless of how efficacious they believe the disadvantaged group to be—will they support social change.

Study 1

Study 1 tested whether hope is associated with support for social change among advantaged group members in two countries with different social and political climates: the Netherlands and the United States. In the Netherlands, the study focused on relations between Turkish-Dutch (disadvan- taged) and native-Dutch (advantaged) groups. To avoid cueing an Obama-inspired association in the American sample, Hispanic Americans were chosen as the disadvantaged group rather than African Americans. Participants completed the same survey in both samples, differing only in terms of the reference groups.



Participants in the Netherlands (N = 84; 72 female; Mage = 18.81, SD = 1.68) were native Dutch psychology students who received course credit for their participation. Participants in the United States (N = 110, 72 female; Mage = 35.29, SD = 13.74) were non-Hispanic community members recruited from the website Amazon Mechanical Turk.

Materials and Measures

Efficacy. Three items measured efficacy beliefs about the advantaged group (e.g., “[Advantaged group members] can effectively achieve the goal of reducing inequality between [disadvantaged group] and [advantaged group]”; Van Zomeren, Leach, & Spears, 2010), α = .92).1 The same three items were reworded to measure efficacy beliefs about the disadvantaged group, α = .90. Items were scored on a scale from 1 (Strongly Disagree) to 7 (Strongly Agree).

Social change. Nine items measured support for social change. Three items assessed general support (e.g., “In order for intergroup inequality to be reduced, we need significant social change at the level of [nation] as a whole”; Subašić & Reynolds, 2009). Three items tapped specific behavioral intentions (e.g., “I would participate in a protest rally aimed at bettering the position of [disadvan- taged group]”; Subašić & Reynolds, 2009). Three items measured support for political actions (e.g., “I think universities should try to increase the number of [disadvantaged group members] in their applicant pool”; Leach et al., 2007). The items were scored on a scale from 1 (Strongly Disagree) to 7 (Strongly Agree), and together formed a reliable scale of support for social change, α = .90.

Hope. Hope was measured using a single item: “Right now, to what extent do you feel hopeful?” on a scale from 1 (Not at All) to 7 (Very Much). Means, standard deviations, and correlations are presented in Table 1.


We conducted a series of multiple regressions predicting first, perceived advantaged and disad- vantaged group efficacy, and second, support for social change. In this second, hierarchical, regres-

1 Our original aim was to expose advantaged group members to an emotional message from a disadvantage group and measure attitude change. Participants were exposed to manipulations that varied the emotional content (hope vs. fear) and frame of the message (about the disadvantaged group vs. the national group). Those manipulations had no effect on the measured variables, and controlling for the manipulations does not change the results.

Greenaway et al.492 Greenaway et al.

sion hope was entered at the first step followed by the two perceived efficacy measures at the second step. All results remain significant when controlling for country of origin. Results of the regression analyses for Studies 1–3 are presented in Table 2.


Hope predicted greater perceived advantaged group efficacy, R2 = .07, F(1,192) = 14.23, β = .26, p < .001, and greater perceived disadvantaged group efficacy, R2 = .07, F(1,192) = 13.83, β = .26, p < .001.

Social Change

Hope predicted greater support for social change in Step 1, R2 = .06, F(1,192) = 12.41, β = .25, p < .001. Efficacy beliefs accounted for a significant amount of variance in Step 2, R2Δ = .25, FΔ (2,190) = 33.19, p < .001. Only perceived advantaged group efficacy was a significant predictor of greater support for social change, β = .52, p < .001. Perceived disadvantaged group efficacy was nonsignificant, β = −.03, p = .703. The relationship between hope and social change became non- significant in Step 2, β = .12, p = .069.

Indirect Effects

Bootstrapping analyses with 10,000 resamples were conducted to test the indirect effect of hope on support for social change through advantaged and disadvantaged group efficacy (Hayes, 2013).

Table 1. Means, Standard Deviations (in parentheses), and Correlations Among Focal Variables in Study 1

1 2 3 4 5

1. Country (U.S. = 1, Netherlands = −1) 0.13 (0.99) .01 −.32*** −.04 −.18 2. Hope 4.45 (1.53) .26*** .26*** .25** 3. Advantaged efficacy 4.36 (1.40) .28*** .54*** 4. Disadvantaged efficacy 4.72 (1.23) .15* 5. Social change 3.84 (1.11)

Note. *p < .05, **p < .01, ***p < .001.

Table 2. Regression Results in Studies 1–3

Disadvantaged Group Efficacy

Advantaged Group Efficacy

Support for Social Change

S1 S2 S3 S1 S2 S3 S1 S2 S3

Step 1 Hope .26*** .09 .31* .26*** .25* .46*** .25*** .24** .45*** Happiness – .27* −.05 – .08 −.38** – .09 −.38** Anger – .07 .17 – .03 −.25 – .17 .03 Sadness – .04 .02 – .21 .36* – .14 .33* Fear – .02 −.02 – –.12 −.15 – −.16 −.08 Positive affect – – .22 – – .23* – – .32* Negative affect – – −.17 – – −.09 – – −.14

Step 2 Advantaged group efficacy – – – – – – .52*** .46*** .28* Disadvantaged group efficacy – – – – – – −.03 −.09 −.08

Note. Entries are standardized regression coefficients for Study 1 (S1), Study 2 (S2), and Study 3 (S3). *p < .05, **p < .01, ***p < .001.

Hope and Social Change 5Hope and Social Change 93

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