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The Opponent-Process Theory of Acquired Motivation: The Costs of Pleasure and the Benefits of Pain


When a UCS, reinforcer, or innate releaser is repeatedly presented to human or animal Ss, 3 major affective phenomena are often observed: (1) affective or hedonic contrast; (2) frequent repetition giving rise to affective or hedonic habituation (tolerance); and (3) after frequent repetition of these stimuli, a withdrawal or abstinence syndrome emerging directly from stimulus termination. These affective dynamics generate new motives, new opportunities for reinforcing and energizing operant behaviors, based on the hedonic attributes of withdrawal or abstinence syndromes. The present article describes the opponent-process theory that attempts to account for such diverse acquired motives as drug addiction, love, affection and social attachment, cravings for sensory and aesthetic experiences, and a variety of self-administered, aversive stimuli. The empirical laws governing the establishment of these new motives are described. Crucial variables include the quality, intensity, and duration of each stimulus presentation and the time intervals between presentations (interreinforcement intervals). The theory also gives a plausible account of the development of addictive behaviors, whether initiated by pleasurable or by aversive events. (53 ref) (APA PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)


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. Doi : https://psycnet.apa.org/doi/10.1037/0003-066X.35.8.691

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