Can Hope be Changed in 90 Minutes? Testing
the Efﬁcacy of a Single-Session Goal-Pursuit Intervention
for College Students
David B. Feldman •Diane E. Dreher
Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011
Abstract Despite extensive research demonstrating relationships between hope and well
being, little work addresses whether hope is malleable. We test a single-session, 90-min
intervention to increase college students’ hopeful goal-directed thinking (as deﬁned by
Snyder et al. in, Pers Soc Psychol 60:570–585, 1991). To date, this study represents the
only test of hope’s malleability in fewer than ﬁve sessions and contributes to the small but
growing literature regarding positive-psychology interventions. This intervention is espe-
cially relevant to college students, given the increasing psychological distress and lack of
perceived control noted among this population (Lewinsohn et al. in, J Abnorm Psychol
102:110–120, 1993; Twenge et al. in, Pers Soc Psychol Rev 8:308–319, 2004). Ninety-six
participants were assigned to the hope intervention or one of two comparison/control
conditions—progressive muscle relaxation or no intervention. Assessment occurred prior
to intervention (pre-test), following intervention (post-test), and at one-month follow-up.
Participants in the hope intervention showed increases in measures of hope, life purpose,
and vocational calling from pre- to post-test relative to control participants. They also
reported greater progress on a self-nominated goal at one-month follow-up. Counterintu-
itively, although hope predicted goal progress, hope did not mediate the relationship
between intervention condition and goal progress. Implications of these ﬁndings and future
directions are discussed.
Keywords Hope theory Goals Goal-speciﬁc hope Single-session intervention
Positive-psychology intervention College students Purpose in life
The college years should be among the most hopeful in students’ lives, yet recent years
have witnessed unprecedented levels of distress among American college students
(Lewinsohn et al. 1993; Twenge 2000). Record numbers are seeking counseling (Michael
et al. 2006), and experiencing lowered academic achievement, inability to make important
D. B. Feldman (&)D. E. Dreher
Department of Counseling Psychology, Loyola Hall, Santa Clara University,
500 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA 95053, USA
J Happiness Stud
decisions, and increased dependence on parents (NSSE 2007; Hofer et al. 2008). Moreover,
today’s college student has a more external locus of control than 80% of those in the 1960s
(Twenge et al. 2004).
We argue that many of these difﬁculties can be traced to low ‘‘hope’’ (see next section
for the deﬁnition used in this study). Research has demonstrated that lower hope is
associated with depression and anxiety (Feldman and Snyder 2005), whereas higher hope
is associated with use of constructive, problem-focused coping (Snyder et al. 1991) and
growth from adversity (Tennen and Afﬂeck 1999). More relevant to the present study,
high-hope college students enjoy better grades, higher graduation rates (Snyder et al.
2002), and better sports performance (Curry et al. 1997) than their low-hope counterparts.
Moreover, higher-hope college students tend to achieve their goals, whatever they may be,
more often than lower-hope students (Feldman et al. 2009). Perhaps because of this greater
goal attainment, higher-hope students even report greater meaning and purpose in life than
their lower-hope counterparts (Feldman and Snyder 2005). In fact, the relationships
between measures of hope and perceived life meaning are among the strongest in the
respective literatures of these two constructs, with correlations ranging from .52 to .77
(Feldman and Snyder 2005; Kim et al. 2005; Mascaro and Rosen 2005,2006).
Despite this array of research on the beneﬁts of hope, relatively few studies have
addressed the topic of whether hope is malleable (Cheavens et al. 2006; Herth 2001;
Klausner et al. 1999; Lapierre et al. 2007; Rustøen and Hanestad 1998; Staats 1991).
Moreover, though one of these articles (Rustøen and Hanestad 1998) described what looks
to be a promising intervention, it did not contain a test of the efﬁcacy of this intervention.
Additionally, all of these studies have concerned interventions that are relatively lengthy
(8–12 sessions), primarily because most have been developed for clinical populations (e.g.,
depressed older adults, individuals with suicidal ideation, patients with cancer). Even the
only study concerning a hope intervention for a non-clinical population (i.e., older adults)
involved ﬁve sessions offered over a 5-month period (Staats 1991).
Despite the fact that hope levels vary widely in non-clinical samples (such as general
samples of college students; Snyder et al. 1991), it is unlikely that such individuals will
present for multiple sessions of therapy, raising the question of whether a shorter inter-
vention could be effective in increasing hope. Additionally, although a central tenet of
Hope Theory (Snyder 1994) is that hope leads to successful pursuit of goals, only one study
to date addresses whether hope longitudinally predicts goal attainment (Feldman et al.
2009). That study found that only one of the two major components of Hope Theory (i.e.,
agency) predicted such attainment. The present study seeks to shed light on these issues.
First, it represents a rare attempt to raise hope in a ‘‘normal’’ population, speciﬁcally in
college students. Second, it represents the ﬁrst test of a single-session hope intervention in
the literature. Third, it tests the hypotheses that hope will prospectively predict goal
attainment and that the hope-based intervention will increase the probability of goal
Before describing and testing this intervention, however, it may be useful to discuss the
hope construct on which it is based.
1 Hope Theory
This study uses the C. R. Snyder et al. (1991) conceptualization of hope, known as Hope
Theory. During the past two decades, Hope Theory has been the most extensively utilized
model of hope in the psychology research literature. According to this model, hope is a
D. B. Feldman, D. E. Dreher
cognitive, goal-directed phenomenon. Goals are deﬁned as the targets of mental action
sequences, and all purposive behavior is said to be goal-directed (Snyder 1994,2000;
Snyder et al. 1999). As such, goals can vary widely in size and difﬁculty of attainment,
with some consisting of mundane, easy-to-achieve objectives and others requiring years or
even decades to achieve. Within this context, hope consists of two interrelated cognitive
components: pathways thinking and agency thinking.
The ﬁrst component of hope, pathways thinking, reﬂects the perceived capacity to
generate cognitive routes to one’s goals. People engage in pathways thinking when they
plan ways to reach their objectives. It is important to stress, however, that the subjective
experience of hope is not necessarily dependent upon individuals actually having charted
concrete pathways to goals, but upon a perception or belief that pathways could be pro-
duced if desired (Snyder et al. 1999).
The second component of hope, agency thinking, is deﬁned as ‘‘the thoughts that people
have regarding their ability to begin and continue movement on selected pathways toward
those goals’’ (Snyder et al. 1999, p. 180). Such agentic cognition motivates and sustains
individuals in their pursuit of goals. The combination of agency and pathways thinking is
theorized to lead individuals to actively pursue their goals (Snyder 1994).
The Merriam-Webster (‘‘Hope’’, 2011a) and Oxford English (‘‘Hope’’, 2011b) dictio-
naries deﬁne hope as, ‘‘ to desire with expectation of obtainment’’ and ‘‘desire combine
with expectation,’’ respectively. Hope Theory represents one attempt at an operational-
ization of hope broadly consistent with these deﬁnitions. Nonetheless, Hope Theory is not
the only model of hope that has been developed. Because ‘‘hope’’ is a word frequently used
in common parlance, its particular meanings are quite varied. Given this, it should be no
surprise that different models of hope run the gamut, encompassing factors including
conﬁdence, cognitive skills, relationships, spiritual beliefs and values, active involvement,
future orientation, and goals (Herth 2001; Nowotny 1991; Rustøen and Hanestad 1998).
We have chosen to use Hope Theory in the present study because its goal-directed nature
seems particularly suited to the development of a brief intervention for college students.
Thus, this is the particular conceptualization of hope to which we will refer in the
remainder of this article.
2 A Single-Session Hope Intervention
Concerned with the increasing levels of stress and emotional difﬁculties in college stu-
dents, researchers have proposed a variety of interventions (e.g., Eisen et al. 2008;
Seligman et al. 2007). Typically, these interventions have been focused on correcting
problems (e.g., anxiety, depression, alcohol abuse) rather than promoting strengths. In
contrast, we developed a hope intervention to build students’ strengths in generating
pathways and agency toward achieving personally relevant goals. In this vein, Misra and
McKean (2000) found that students who could plan, set goals, and who felt in control of
their time experienced signiﬁcantly lower stress and anxiety than students without these
As mentioned previously, whereas past intervention research primarily has been con-
cerned with raising hope in clinical populations with multi-session interventions, the
present research concerns a single-session intervention for the general college population.
This intervention makes use of a ‘‘hope visualization’’ exercise based on research in the
realm of mental rehearsal. This exercise previously had been used as one component (i.e.,
in part of one session only) of a larger 8-session hope-based intervention package
Single-Session Hope Intervention
(Cheavens et al. 2006). Though the efﬁcacy of mental rehearsal as a hope intervention has
never been investigated outside of the aforementioned larger package intervention
(Cheavens et al. 2006), basic research supports the notion that mental practice is an
effective tool to improve performance on speciﬁc behaviors (see Druckman 2004; Driskell
et al. 1994) in the domains of sports (Biddle 1985; Feltz and Landers 1983; Grouis 1992;
Murphy 1990a,b; Peynircioglu et al. 2000; Whelan et al. 1991), musical performance (Lim
and Lippman 1990; see Sisterhen 2004), teaching (Romeo 1985), work skill acquisition
(Wohldmann et al. 2008), and rehabilitation (Farley 1985).
The hope intervention used in the present study consisted of a single, 90-min session
(including completion of study measures). The agenda of the session was as follows: (1)
the choosing of a personal goal, (2) psychoeducation regarding hope, (3) a hope-based goal
mapping exercise, and (4) the hope visualization exercise. At the beginning of the session,
students were asked to choose a goal that they would like to accomplish within the next
6 months. They were encouraged to choose any goal that seemed personally relevant to
them. They then wrote this goal down and ﬁlled out all pre-test study measures (see Sect. 4
Second, 20 min of the intervention were dedicated to teaching participants about the
components of hope. Topics included the deﬁnition of hope, the importance of setting
clear, concrete goals, and tips regarding the generation of pathways and agency. This
section of the intervention was didactic in nature, consisting mainly of lecture, though
participants were invited to ask questions at any time.
Third, participants were guided through a 20-min ‘‘goal mapping’’ exercise. In this
exercise, they engaged in proactive hope-based planning by ﬁlling out a worksheet
addressing the components of hope theory. They wrote down their goal on the right side of
the page. To the left of this goal, running across the page, they wrote down three steps that
they could take along their pathway to achieving this goal. Below each of these steps, they
wrote an obstacle that possibly could hamper their ability to take the step as well as an
alternative pathway around the obstacle. They also wrote down ways that they could
maintain their agency through the process of goal pursuit.
Last, using this worksheet as a guide, participants underwent the hope visualization
exercise. In this 20-min exercise, participants were verbally guided to close their eyes and
imagine taking each step on their mapping worksheet, encountering each obstacle listed,
and motivating themselves to circumnavigate each obstacle. An important aspect of this
exercise is its realism; thus, participants were instructed to make the visualization as vivid
as possible. Verbal prompts encouraged participants to experience the visualization using
all ﬁve senses. At the end of this exercise, they were guided to see themselves accom-
plishing their goal and feeling the positive emotions and increased agency that result.
At the conclusion of the session, participants were asked to ﬁll out the post-test mea-
surement packet (see Sect. 4).
3 The Present Study
The present research consists of a randomized controlled trial testing the efﬁcacy of the
aforementioned single-session intervention in increasing hope levels and facilitating goal
attainment in college students. After ﬁlling out a packet of questionnaires on which they
nominated a goal that they wished to accomplish within the next 6 months, participants
were randomly assigned to undergo the hope-based intervention or one of two comparison/
control conditions—a standard progressive muscle relaxation intervention (Goldfried and
D. B. Feldman, D. E. Dreher
Davison 1994) or no intervention. Immediately following the intervention and at 1-month
follow-up, participants again ﬁlled out questionnaires.
We propose four hypotheses. First, participants in the hope intervention condition
should manifest increased levels of hope, vocational calling, and purpose in life relative to
participants not receiving this intervention. Second, participants in the hope intervention
condition should report greater progress on their self-nominated goal at 1-month follow-up
relative to participants not in the hope intervention group. Third, participants’ hope levels
should predict goal progress 1-month later. Last, the relationship between condition (i.e.,
hope intervention, relaxation control, or no treatment control) and goal progress should be
mediated by levels of hope regarding that goal.
Participants were 96 college students (27 males and 69 females) from a university in
Northern California who took part in the study as one means of fulﬁlling the requirements
of their introductory psychology courses. Participants ranged in age from 18 to 22, with a
mean of 18.71 (SD =.85). Sixty-seven students identiﬁed as Caucasian, 12 identiﬁed as
Latino, 10 identiﬁed as Asian or Asian American, 4 identiﬁed as African American, and 3
identiﬁed as ‘‘other.’’ No signiﬁcant gender, age, or ethnic differences were found on any
of the study measures.
Participants were randomly assigned to one of three conditions. As mentioned previously,
participants in the experimental group receive the hope intervention, participants in the
relaxation comparison condition received a progressive muscle relaxation intervention, and
participants in the control group received no intervention.
All experimental sessions were held in conference rooms or small classrooms, where
6–8 students sat around a conference table. Upon arriving, they were asked to ﬁll out a
pre-test measurement packet consisting of a demographics questionnaire, Goal-Speciﬁc
Hope Scale (GSHS), Purpose in Life Test (PILT) and Vocation Identity Questionnaire
(VIQ; see Measures section for details on these instruments and rationales for their
inclusion). This packet also prompted participants to nominate a goal that they would
like to accomplish within the next 6 months and rate the personal importance of this
goal. A 6-month window was chosen in order to encourage participants to choose
medium-size goals, rather than very short-term or very long-term goals. We believed that
medium-size goals would yield the greatest variance at the 1-month follow-up assess-
ment, minimizing ceiling or ﬂoor effects on the measure of goal progress. After ﬁlling
out the measurement packet, participants in the no-treatment control condition were
dismissed for the day. Those in both the hope and relaxation conditions then received
their respective interventions.
As mentioned previously, students in the hope intervention condition received psy-
choeducation about the three components of hope (i.e., goals, pathways, and agency) and
were given an explanation of the ‘‘hope visualization’’ exercise detailed previously. They
then were guided in developing a hope-based mapping diagram for accomplishing the goal
that they nominated. Next, using this diagram as a guide, participants underwent the hope
Single-Session Hope Intervention
visualization exercise. Last, they ﬁlled out the post-test packet consisting of the same
measures as the pre-test packet, with the exception that the demographics questionnaire
In the relaxation condition, students received psychoeducation about the nature of stress
and how it can interfere with their lives. They then were given an explanation of pro-
gressive muscle relaxation and its relevance to stress management. Next, they were
instructed in the monitoring of stress using the Subjective Units of Discomfort (SUDS)
scale, a 1–100 scale ranging from no stress to the most stress imaginable and practiced
using this scale. Last, they were led through a standard 20-min progressive muscle
relaxation exercise taken from Goldfried and Davison (1994). As in the hope intervention
condition, participants ﬁlled out the post-test measurement packet at the end of the session.
We chose the relaxation intervention as a comparison condition because its elements
superﬁcially paralleled those of the hope intervention, beginning with a period of psy-
choeducation and ending with a guided meditation-like exercise. The sessions for both the
experimental and relaxation conditions lasted approximately 90 min (including measures)
and were co-conducted by the authors of this study.
Follow-up data were obtained through an online survey. One month after the initial
session, participants in all three conditions were contacted via email and invited to visit a
web site to complete all of the measures again, this time also adding the goal-attainment
measure. For visiting the follow-up survey web site, they were mailed a check for $15.00.
4.3.1 Goal Survey
At the pre-test time-point, participants were asked to write down a goal that they would
like to accomplish during the next 6 months. To encourage participants to name a goal that
is personally meaningful, they were not given any limitations regarding the type of goal to
nominate. Participants’ goals reﬂected diverse areas of life. Representative examples are,
‘‘Re-learn the ﬂute,’’ ‘‘Buy a new car,’’ ‘‘Eat healthier and workout more to have a healthy
lifestyle,’’ and ‘‘Be in a meaningful, healthy, and loving romantic relationship.’’ To ensure
that goals were personally relevant to participants, they also were asked to respond on a 0
(not at all important)to6(extremely important) scale to the item, ‘‘How important is this
goal to you personally?’’
4.3.2 Goal-Speciﬁc Hope Scale (GSHS)
The GSHS (Feldman et al. 2009) is a measure of hope for a particular goal at a particular
time. In the present study, participants ﬁlled out the GSHS with reference to the goal they
nominated on the goal survey. The GSHS contains 6 items divided equally into agency and
pathways subscales. Respondents rate each item on a scale ranging from 1 (deﬁnitely false)
to 8 (deﬁnitely true). An example agency item is, ‘‘I energetically pursue this goal,’’ and an
example pathways item is, ‘‘I can think of many ways to achieve this goal.’’ Scores can
range from 3 to 24 for the agency and pathways subscales and from 6 to 48 for total hope.
Feldman et al. (2009) provide evidence supporting the psychometric properties of the
GSHS. In the present sample, the GSHS was administered at all three time-points, with
Cronbach’s alphas of .76, .85, and .84.
D. B. Feldman, D. E. Dreher
4.3.3 Purpose in Life Test (PILT)
The PILT (Crumbaugh and Maholick 1964) is a 20-item measure of perceived life
meaning/purpose. Respondents rate items on seven-point Likert-type scales with anchors
that differ from item to item. Items include, ‘‘In thinking of my life, I …‘‘, with a rating
scale ranging from 1 (often wonder why I exist)to7(always see a reason for my being
here), and ‘‘I regard my ability to ﬁnd a meaning, purpose, or mission in life as …’’, with a
rating scale ranging from 1 (practically none)to7(very great). Scores can range from 20
to 140. This measure was chosen for use in the present study on both theoretical and
empirical grounds. On theoretical grounds, scholars have proposed that working toward
personal goals is a central way people ﬁnd meaning and purpose in life (Feldman and
Snyder 2005; Kasser and Sheldon 2004). On empirical grounds, as mentioned previously,
past research has documented robust associations between hope and meaning/purpose in
life (Feldman and Snyder 2005; Mascaro and Rosen 2005,2006), and a lengthier hope
intervention (Cheavens et al. 2006) has been shown to impact PILT scores, in particular.
Research supports the psychometric properties of the PILT (Crumbaugh 1968; see Hutzell
1988 for a review). In the present sample, the PILT was administered at all three time-
points, with Cronbach’s alphas of .84, .89, and .50.
4.3.4 Vocation Identity Questionnaire (VIQ)
The VIQ (Dreher et al. 2007) is a 9-item measure of vocational calling, which the authors
of this instrument deﬁne as the degree of personal meaning or purpose perceived in one’s
work. Items include ‘‘I have a calling that enables me to develop my skills and talents and
use them in a meaningful way,’’ and ‘‘Most of the time I genuinely enjoy the work I do,’’
which respondents rate on a scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree)to5(strongly agree).
Scores can range from 9 to 45. The scale’s instructions direct students to count their
academic pursuits as ‘‘work’’ for the purposes of answering the items. Given that our
participants are college students and thus are engaging in daily academic tasks as they
prepare for their futures, we wished to assess any impact of our intervention on the degree
of meaning or purpose perceived in this work. Dreher et al. (2007) provide evidence
supporting the psychometric properties of the VIQ. In the present sample, the VIQ was
administered at all three time-points, with Cronbach’s alphas of .67, .67, and .78.
4.4 Goal Attainment Survey
At 1-month follow-up, participants were asked to provide two ratings of their success in
pursuing the goal nominated at pre-test. The ﬁrst item was, ‘‘Have you accomplished this
goal completely?’’ to which participants responded ‘‘yes’’ or ‘‘no.’’ The second item was,
‘‘How much progress have you made toward accomplishing this goal?’’ to which partic-
ipants responded on a 1 (no progress at all)to5(extreme progress) scale. Because only 4
participants indicated that they had accomplished their goal completely, only the second
item was used as an outcome measure in the present study.
We hypothesized that participants in the hope intervention condition would manifest
increased levels of hope, vocational calling, and purpose in life relative to participants who
Single-Session Hope Intervention
did not receive the intervention. A series of 2 (Condition: hope intervention, relaxation
control) 93 (Time: pre-test, post-test, follow-up) mixed ANOVAs were used to test these
hypotheses. Only the hope intervention and relaxation conditions were used in these
analyses because we collected data at all three time-points only for participants in these
two conditions. Unexpectedly, these interactions did not reach signiﬁcance with regard
to predicting PILT scores (K=.94, F(2, 41) =1.29, p=.29), VIQ scores (K=.95,
F(2, 45) =1.19, p=.31), or scores on the Agency subscale of the GSHS (K=.96,
F(2, 44) =.96, p=.39). Only the analysis predicting scores on the Pathways subscale of
the GSHS approached signiﬁcance, K=.89, F(2, 43) =2.48, p=.09, partial g
An examination of the scale means (see Table 1) may provide the reason why none of
the previous analyses were signiﬁcant. Scores on the measures of hope, vocational calling,
and life purpose appeared to increase from pre- to post-test in the hope intervention group
then decrease again by 1-month follow-up. This is perhaps not surprising given that the
intervention consisted of only a single 90-min session. This decrease may have washed out
the signiﬁcance of any initial increase. In addition, 24.7% of participants did not respond to
the 1-month follow-up survey. Although this attrition rate is relatively modest (Murphy
1990a,b) and did not vary across conditions (X
(2, N=96) =1.62, p=.44) it none-
theless reduces statistical power and increases the probability of Type II error. For these
reasons, we reanalyzed the data using a series of 2 (Condition: hope intervention, relax-
ation control) 92 (Time: pre-test, post-test) mixed ANOVAs to test for an effect of the
hope intervention from pre- to post-test relative to the relaxation condition. The interac-
tions were signiﬁcant in all of these analyses (see Table 2). An examination of the means
(see Table 1) reveals that scores on all outcome measures increased to a greater degree for
participants in the hope intervention condition than those in the relaxation condition.
We also hypothesized that our intervention would increase goal progress 1-month later.
To test this hypothesis, we performed a 3 (Condition: hope intervention, relaxation,
Table 1 Means of outcome measures by condition and time-point
Pre-test Post-test Follow-up
Outcome measure M SD M SD M SD
Hope agency 18.42 3.65 20.27 2.66 17.79 3.91
Hope pathways 18.64 3.92 20.81 3.20 19.18 3.55
Purpose in life 105.22 11.95 111.87 10.46 88.48 5.69
Vocational ident. 32.46 5.71 33.84 5.05 31.39 4.95
Hope agency 19.63 4.09 20.33 3.37 18.25 4.87
Hope pathways 19.60 3.52 19.90 3.66 19.58 3.37
Purpose in life 107.10 15.37 110.60 17.50 88.71 9.45
Vocational Ident. 34.40 4.55 34.43 4.57 34.40 6.50
No treatment control
Hope agency 17.83 3.70 – – 18.83 3.33
Hope pathways 18.10 3.83 – – 17.70 3.94
Purpose in life 102.17 10.36 – – 89.22 8.33
Vocational identity 32.72 4.11 – – 30.77 5.55
Participants in the no-treatment control condition did not ﬁll out post-test measures
D. B. Feldman, D. E. Dreher
no-treatment control) 92 (Importance of goal: high, low) between-subjects ANOVA. For
ease of analysis, we created a dichotomous importance variable by performing a median
split on importance ratings. Recall that, at the beginning of the experimental session, each
participant wrote down a goal that he or she wished to accomplish in the next 6 months.
Anecdotally, it appeared that some participants struggled with ﬁnding such a goal and, in
order not to delay the session, simply picked whatever goal came to mind. Of course, our
intervention should have an effect on goal progress only to the extent that participants
nominate goals about which they actually care. For ‘‘false goals,’’ our intervention should
have no effect because these goals do not actually represent desired states. This is the
reason that we included a measure of the personal importance of participants’ nominated
goals. We hypothesized that the hope intervention should increase goal progress at
1-month follow-up relative to the relaxation and no-treatment control conditions only for
goals rated high in importance. As expected, the interaction was signiﬁcant, F(2,
65) =4.06, p=.02, partial g
To clarify these results, we performed a one-way ANOVA in both the sub-sample of
participants who rated their goal as of high importance and the sub-sample of participants
who rated their goal as of low importance. In these analyses, condition (hope intervention,
relaxation, no-treatment control) served as the independent variable, and goal progress at
1-month follow-up served as the dependent variable. For participants who rated their goals
as low in importance, condition had no effect on goal progress, F(2, 29) =.69, p=.54.
As expected, however, for participants who rated their goals as high in importance, con-
dition signiﬁcantly predicted goal progress, F(2, 36) =5.70, p=.01, partial g
Follow-up tests were conducted to evaluate pairwise differences among the mean progress
ratings in the three conditions. Given the signiﬁcant omnibus test and the small number of
comparisons, we elected to use Fisher’s Least Signiﬁcant Difference method to conduct
these tests (see Table 3). In the high-goal-importance sub-sample, participants in the hope
intervention condition showed signiﬁcantly greater goal progress than those in the relax-
ation and no-treatment control conditions. No signiﬁcant difference was found between the
relaxation and no-treatment conditions.
Table 2 Results of 2 (Condition: hope intervention, relaxation control) 92 (Time: pre-test, post-test)
mixed model ANOVAs testing for an effect of condition from pre- to post-test
Hope agency .93 4.72 1 64 .03 .07
Hope pathways .87 9.67 1 64 .003 .13
Purpose in life .94 4.34 1 65 .04 .06
Vocational identity .94 4.06 1 65 .05 .06
The parameters reported for each outcome measure represent the test of the condition 9time interaction
Table 3 Follow-up pairwise comparisons by condition among the mean goal progress ratings of partici-
pants who rated their goals as of high importance
Condition M SD Relaxation No treatment
Hope intervention 3.64 .84 .04 .001
Relaxation 3.08 .95 – .07
No treatment 2.58 .52 .07 –
Figures in the ﬁnal two columns represent p-values for the pairwise comparisons
Single-Session Hope Intervention
Recall that we expected that goal-speciﬁc hope would mediate the effect of our inter-
vention on goal progress at 1-month follow-up for participants who considered their goal to
be of high importance. According to Baron and Kenny (1986), to demonstrate mediation
there must be: (1) a relationship between the independent variable (condition) and the
mediator (GSHS), (2) a relationship between the mediator (GSHS) and the dependent
variable (goal progress), and (3) a relationship between the independent and the dependent
variables that is reduced or eliminated by statistically controlling for the mediator. With
reference to the ﬁrst requirement, there was a signiﬁcant relationship between the inde-
pendent variable (i.e., condition) and the variables that will be used as mediators—the
GSHS pathways subscale (F(2, 49) =3.60, p=.04, partial g
=.13) and agency sub-
scale (F(2, 49) =4.46, p=.02, partial g
=.15). Please note that the analysis addressing
the second requirement for mediation will simultaneously be a test of our third study
hypothesis, that GSHS pathways and agency scores will prospectively predict goal pro-
gress at 1-month follow-up. These relationships were signiﬁcant, r(39) =.31, p=.03 and
r(39) =.28, p=.04 for pathways and agency, respectively. To address the third
requirement for mediation, we performed an ANCOVA to test whether the previously
established relationship between our intervention and goal progress is reduced or elimi-
nated by covarying GSHS scores. As in the previous analysis, condition (hope intervention,
relaxation, no-treatment control) served as the independent variable and goal progress
served as the dependent variable; we simultaneously covaried both GSHS pathways and
agency scores. Counter to expectations, the relationship between condition and goal pro-
gress remained signiﬁcant after covarying GSHS scores, indicating a lack of full media-
tion, F(2, 34) =3.88, p=.03, partial g
=.19. Though the size of the effect of condition
on goal progress was attenuated somewhat by covarying GSHS scores, a Sobel Test
(MacKinnon and Dwyer 1993; Preacher and Hayes 2004) revealed no signiﬁcant partial
mediation, Z=1.12, p=.26. As such, although hope was shown to prospectively predict
goal progress, it did not mediate the effect of the intervention on goal progress.
The present study was designed primarily to address whether a single-session intervention
could increase hope (deﬁned as the combination of pathways and agency thinking; Snyder
2002) and facilitate goal progress in college students. A secondary purpose was to test
whether hope would prospectively predict goal progress. The results provide substantial,
though not unqualiﬁed, support for our hypotheses.
First, in comparison to participants who underwent the relaxation intervention, those
who received the hope intervention showed greater increases from pre- to post-test in hope
(both agency and pathways) regarding a self-nominated goal, as well as in sense of life
purpose and vocational calling. These immediate increases were not maintained at 1-month
follow-up, however. As mentioned previously, this is perhaps not surprising given the
single-session nature of this study. In order to address whether hope can be increased in a
more long-lasting way, it may be necessary to offer a longer-term intervention. Future
studies might address whether offering more sessions spaced out over several weeks might
increase the maintenance of gains. Regardless of whether a greater number of sessions is
offered, homework could be assigned to encourage participants to extend hope-based skills
into daily life, or ‘‘check-in’’ emails could be used to remind participants to practice skills.
Of note, only one of the previous studies of multi-session Hope Theory interventions for
D. B. Feldman, D. E. Dreher
clinical populations included follow-up assessment after completion of treatment (i.e.,
Lapierre et al. 2007), so further work is clearly needed in this regard.
Because most research on Hope Theory has not examined the agency and pathways
components separately (see Chang 2003), we analyzed these two subscales of the Goal-
Speciﬁc Hope Scale separately whenever possible in order to test for any differing effects.
Of note, both agency and pathways scores increased from pre- to post-test as a result of the
hope intervention. Nonetheless, the effect size was larger for the change in pathways
=.13) than agency (partial g
=.07). This is likely the result of the differential
emphasis placed upon these components during the hope intervention. Although both
agency and pathways were discussed with participants, both the goal mapping and hope
visualization exercises primarily focused on planning and envisioning the pathway to one’s
The second and perhaps most notable ﬁnding was that participants who received the
hope intervention reported making signiﬁcantly more progress on their goals at 1-month
follow-up in comparison with those in both the no-treatment control condition and the
relaxation condition. This result is particularly meaningful given the extremely brief
duration of the intervention. Although descriptions of single-session treatments are com-
mon in the literature, empirical studies of such interventions that include control groups are
relatively rare (Bloom 2001; Cameron 2007).
Last, hope scores regarding participants’ self-nominated goals predicted goal progress at
1-month follow-up. This ﬁnding thus provides evidence of hope’s ability to predict goal
attainment, a central tenet of Hope Theory (Snyder 1994). These results are informative
given the overwhelmingly cross-sectional, correlational nature of the literature on hope. To
date, only one study has previously tested such a longitudinal relationship of this construct
of hope with goal progress (i.e., Feldman et al. 2009). However, these researchers found
evidence only of the ability of agency to predict goal progress; the present study is the ﬁrst
to demonstrate such prediction for both agency and pathways.
Given these positive ﬁndings, it is counterintuitive that hope was not shown to mediate
the effects of the intervention on goal progress at 1-month follow-up. The variance in goal
progress accounted for by goal-speciﬁc hope scores overlapped by 27.6% with the variance
accounted for by condition. As such, much of what may have led the intervention to
increase goal progress is unaccounted for by hope. One possible explanation for this
remaining variance may be a practice effect. In addition to increasing individuals’ agency
and pathways thinking, the hope visualization exercise utilized in this study may have
given participants practice executing the speciﬁc behaviors necessary to achieve their
goals. As cited previously, mental practice has been shown to improve performance on
speciﬁc behaviors (Biddle 1985; Druckman 2004; Driskell et al. 1994; Farley 1985;
Murphy 1990a,b; Romeo 1985; Sisterhen 2004; Wohldmann et al. 2008). The present
study extends these ﬁndings into the realm of general goal pursuits involving a chain of
behaviors/steps rather than the execution of a single circumscribed behavior.
It is important to note limitations of the present study. First, the same individuals
delivered both the hope and relaxation interventions. The advantage of this procedure is
that it eliminates any effects of different experimenters across conditions. As such, there
was no need to analyze for or statistically control for experimenter effects. The disad-
vantage, however, is that this procedure potentially introduces researcher allegiance
effects. Allegiance effects are not well understood and are notoriously difﬁcult to control;
such effects materialize even in the highest quality studies. In their noted meta-analytic
analysis of treatment efﬁcacy studies, for instance, Luborsky et al. (1999) found no rela-
tionship between methodological quality and the size of the allegiance effect. Nonetheless,
Single-Session Hope Intervention
Thase (1999) argues that the allegiance effect is a proxy for the expertise of the researchers
and the lower integrity of the control condition. To minimize these factors in the present
study, both interventions were carefully scripted and the group leaders had prior experience
delivering both relaxation and hope-based techniques. Nonetheless, appropriate caution
should be utilized when interpreting the results. Additionally, researchers should consider
implementing researcher-blinded procedures in future studies.
Second, though the present study included three conditions—hope intervention, relax-
ation intervention, and no-treatment control—only the ﬁrst two conditions made use of pre-
test, post-test, and 1-month follow-up measures. Because participants in the no-treatment
control received no intervention, they ﬁlled out only the pre-test measurement packet and
were dismissed from the session, later ﬁlling out the 1-month follow-up measure along
with participants in the other conditions. As a result, in some analyses, we were limited to
comparing the hope intervention condition with the relaxation condition only. Because the
hope intervention was shown to be superior to the relaxation condition in these analyses, it
likely also would have been superior to no treatment. In analyses where all three conditions
could be included, the hope intervention indeed was superior to both the relaxation and no-
treatment control conditions, which were not signiﬁcantly different from one another.
Nonetheless, if future studies make use of a no-treatment control group, researchers should
include a post-test for this group. Additionally, future studies could compare the present
hope intervention to other types of goal-setting interventions or interventions derived from
other models of hope.
Third, our measure of goal progress was self-report and thus subject to reporting biases.
Although such self-report measures are common in the literatures concerning goal-directed
cognition (e.g., Burger 1985; Hynie et al. 2006; Wrosch et al. 2003), it would be useful to
measure goal pursuit with more objective methods in future research. One advantage of
using self-reports of goal progress, however, is the freedom to allow participants to
nominate a wide variety of goals. This freedom may provide a more representative sam-
pling of the participant population’s typical goals, increasing generalizability of the results.
A disadvantage of this method, however, is that researchers have little control over the
content or type of goals that participants nominate. Researchers cannot guarantee, for
instance, that all goals chosen by participants are equally personally signiﬁcant. We
attempted to remedy this, in part, by assessing the personal importance of the goals and by
using this rating as a moderator variable. If researchers wish to measure goal progress more
objectively or to exercise greater control over the content of goals used, it may be nec-
essary to restrict the focus of studies (and the generalizability of the results) to particular
goals (e.g., achieving a good grade, obtaining a job, etc.).
Despite two decades of research demonstrating associations between Hope Theory and
higher well being, little work has addressed the question of whether hope is malleable. The
present study offers some evidence that a single-session intervention can increase hope in
the short term as well as lead to greater levels of goal progress as much as a month later.
From a more pragmatic standpoint, it offers hope that even a brief intervention can help a
stressed generation of college students ﬁnd greater direction.
D. B. Feldman, D. E. Dreher
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