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Hope

 

Explanations > Emotions > Hope

What is hope? | The sliding scale | Greed | Hope as a destination | So what

 

What is hope?

Hope happens when someone sees something, decides that it is desirable, realizes that they may not get it, but believes that there is still a chance of getting it.

To put it tersely, though perhaps in a complex way, hope is expectation moderated by probabilistic estimation of a desired event.

For hope to be a strong force for tension, the person's estimation that the desired event will occur must be both high enough for them to consider there to be a reasonable chance of it happening, yet not so high that they become complacent.

Charles Revson, founder of the famous Revlon cosmetics empire famously said that what he sold was 'hope'.

In terms of how long an emotion lasts, hope is often long-lasting. It is also related to optimism, which can vary with the individual although we are all generally more optimistic than pessimistic.

Fear

Fear is a form of negative hope. Both are forms of anticipation as we forecast the future and experience emotions in line with our predictions.

The sliding scale

Hope is not a single thing. It is more of a sliding scale that ranges across a scale from virtual certainty to utter desperation. It can range within a single conversation across this whole spectrum. You can raise a person's hope, dash it on the rocks of uncertainty, raise it out of the waters and toss it around until the other person will grasp at whatever straw you throw at them.

The hope curve

The actual hope that people feel does not necessarily match the real probability of success. Typically we feel optimistic or pessimistic at the extremes. 

At zero probability, we are realistically pessimistic, and we stay this way until there is sufficient probability to break out of the fear of loss. As the event becomes more likely, we become disproportionately optimistic. 

  

Types of hope

There are (at least) three types of hope:

Desperation

Desperate hope is when a deep need is felt. Someone who is desperate will do almost anything to satisfy the hope (with 'almost anything' being in proportion to the level of desperation).

Optimism

Whereas desperate hope often has a negative connotation, optimistic hope is often positive. In both cases, the probability of achieving the hoped-for thing can be very variable, often sitting at a very low probability of occurring.

Realistic hope

Realistic hope is based on a fair estimation of probabilities. Thus, if something is over (say) 50% likely, then I might realistically hope that it will happen.

Hope as a destination

Robert Louis Stevenson said 'It is better to travel hopefully than arrive', indicating how hope can be a pleasant in itself. In particular, hope is often tinged with the fear both that you will not get what you want, and also that even when you achieve your goal, it will not be as perfect as your fantasized eventualities.

As a result, many people are happy just to hope. All you need to do is offer them this, as all casinos do to their hapless customers. Many such punters will merrily gamble away until their money is all gone, then return time and again just to experience that temporary thrill of hope.

So what?

Use hope in persuasion through the non-linear relationship between perception and reality. Build optimism by showing how real the chances of success are. Move people away from things by highlighting the chances of failure.  

Beware, however, of betrayal effects. If the other person's hopes are dashed and you are perceived as the culprit, then you will become the target of their revenge.

Making up

Charles Revson, the founder of the Revlon cosmetics company, once famously commented that what they really sold was hope. (For some it is realistic hope, for others it is perhaps more like desperation.) Paradoxically make-up can also sow false seeds of hope in the other party. If I wear make-up, I am actually selling myself as more than I really am. There have been many cracks about the other person being beautiful the night before but not the morning after.

Gambling dens

As a very real example of managed hope in action, look no further than the nearest casino or gambling den. Casinos dangle large sums and glittering prizes whilst making the hoping as pleasant as possible with salubrious surroundings, free drinks, attractive members of the opposite sex and so on.

The gamblers are trapped in a cocoon of warmth as their money is steadily leeched away from them (note how the reality of money itself is hidden behind tokens and credit, preventing the unreality bubble from being burst).

See also

The Seven Virtues, Greed

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