Hope has figured prominently in the current presidential race, from Republican Rep. Ron Paul's Hope for America campaign to Sen. Barack Obama's book "The Audacity of Hope."
The constant use of the word may diminish its impact, but Elizabeth Alexander, who recently completed a psychological model of hope to earn a doctorate in educational psychology at the University of Texas, said hope is more than a political buzzword.
"I think it's been important for contemporary politicians to use this term because it is indicative of change - positive change," Alexander said. "Hope is not some passive thing. If we want to be hopeful as a nation, as opposed to being fearful all the time, then we need to challenge ourselves."
She said Obama's book and campaign resonate with people by providing the same openness, feeling of empowerment and sense of social connectedness that she saw in the "high-hope" individuals she studied.
"If you think about the word 'audacity,' it means boldness," Alexander said. "It means daring. It implies risk. Those were the things that my higher-hope people all did."