Opponent-Process Theory
Richard Solomon (1980) has developed a theory of motivation/emotion that views emotions as pairs of opposites (for example, fear-relief, pleasure-pain). The opponent-process theory states that when one emotion is experienced, the other is suppressed. For example, if you are frightened by a mean dog, the emotion of fear is expressed and relief is suppressed. If the fear-causing stimulus continues to be present, after a while the fear decreases and the relief intensifies. For example, if the dog didn't move, your fear would decrease and relief that the dog didn't attack would increase. If the stimulus is no longer present, then the first emotion disappears and is replaced totally with the second emotion. If the dog turns and runs, you are no longer afraid, but rather feel very relieved. Solomon and Corbit (1974) analyzed the emotions present when skydivers jump from planes. Beginners experience extreme fear as they jump, which is replaced by great relief when they land. With repeated jumps, the fear decreases and the post-jump pleasure increases. This process may explain a variety of thrill-seeking behaviors. It has also been proposed as a model of drug addiction. The drug initially produces pleasurable feelings, but then a negative emotional experience occurs. Eventually, the drug user takes drugs not for their pleasurable effects, but to avoid withdrawal symptoms. The opponent-process theory is an attempt to link emotional states with motivation. Although it is an intriguing idea, some researchers have not found support for the opponent-process theory. For example, Sanduik and colleagues (1985) did not find a reaction to withdrawal, as predicted by the theory. Additional research is needed to test the usefulness of the opponent-process theory.