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- This article is about a theory of emotion and motivation. There is also a color theory called opponent process.
Opponent-process theory is a psychological model proposed by Richard Solomon in 1980 to account for addictive behavior. It asserts that emotions are paired, and that when one emotion in a pair is experienced, the other is suppressed. The theory has its origins 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.
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