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Opponent-process theory is a universal psychological and neurological model proposed by Leo Hurvich and Dorothea Jameson 1957 to account for a wide range of behaviors including color vision; this model was expanded to explain addictive and emotional behavior by his co-worker at the University of Pennsylvania, Richard Solomon.

The most important contribution is Solomon's work on work motivation and addictive behavior. This model asserts that emotions are paired, and that when one emotion in a pair is experienced, the other is suppressed. It also predicts an opponent reaction in the opposite direction after the suppression has been habituated. In effect emotions modulate around a point of neutrality when stimulated or technically speaking when the opponent forces or emotions have cancelled each other out.

The theory was supported in a study Solomon conducted along with J.D. Corbit in 1974, in which the researchers analyzed the emotions of skydivers. It was found that beginners have greater levels of fear than more experienced skydivers, but less pleasure upon landing. In the opponent process model, this is the result of a shift over time from fear to pleasure in the fear-pleasure emotion pair.

According to opponent-process theory, drug addiction is the result of an emotional pairing of pleasure and the emotional symptoms associated with withdrawal. Initially, there are high levels of pleasure and low levels of withdrawal. Over time, however, as the levels of pleasure from using the drug decrease, the levels of withdrawal symptoms from not taking the drug increase, thus providing motivation to use the drug despite a lack of pleasure from it.

Hurvich & Jameson proposed a neurological model of a general theory of neurological opponent processing in 1974.[1] This led to Ronald C. Blue and Wanda E. Blue’s general model of Correlational Holographic Opponent Processing. This model proposes that habituation is a neurological holographic wavelet interference of opponent processes that explains learning, vision, hearing, taste, balance, smell, motivation, and emotions.

Related topics[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Leo Hurvich and Dorothea Jameson. "Opponent processes as a model of neural organization". American Psychologist, 1974.

Further reading[edit | edit source]

  • ERN Grigg, MD. Biological Relativity. Akaranth Books, 1967. (Extensive opponent-processes as a general model of biology and psychology)
  • Solomon, R.L. (1980). The Opponent-Process Theory of Acquired Motivation: The Costs of Pleasure and the Benefits of Pain. American Psychologist, 35, 8, pp. 691-712.
  • Solomon, R.L. and Corbit, J.D. (1973). An Opponent-Process Theory of Motivation: II. Cigarette Addiction. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 81, 2, pp. 158-171.
  • Solomon, R.L. and Corbit, J.D. (1974). An Opponent-Process Theory of Motivation: I. Temporal Dynamics of Affect. Psychological Review, 81, 2, pp. 119-145.
  • Solomon's "Opponent Process" Theory on
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