The Opponent Process Theory

The opponent-process theory suggests that we often experience emotions in opposing pairs such as fear and relief or pleasure and pain. When we experience one end of the spectrum, the other end is temporarily suppressed and thus we rarely experience the two at the same time. However, there are times when we experience both emotions before the first emotion fades. When this happens, the experience can be uncomfortable or even strangely enjoyable. 

A good example of this process is skydiving, which was the basis of the primary research into this theory. When a person skydives for the very first time, the jump elicits high levels of fear and relatively low levels of pleasure, even upon landing. However, as the skydiver gains more experience, the level of fear decreases while pleasure increases. Often, the skydiver feels both at the same time, resulting in high levels of excitement.

Another example is shopping and the guilt that often follows. For example, a woman finds a new dress that she loves but not having the money, she charges the new dress. She immediately feels excitement and pleasure with her new purchase. However, soon after getting home, she begins to feel guilt for charging a dress that she wanted, but did not really need.

Now, read the following article:

Based on your analysis of the article, explain in detail how the opponent-process theory works. Be sure to address the following:

  • How does the opponent-process theory explain why drug addiction is so difficult to break? 
  • With this understanding, what can a person do to affect their emotions in a way that helps them break their addiction?

Write your initial response in 3–4 paragraphs. Apply APA standards to citation of sources.

  • Have your peers correctly described how the opponent-process theory works? Why or why not?
  • Do you agree with your peers’ interpretation of how the opponent-process theory explains the tenacity of drug addiction? Why or why not? What, if anything, would you add or remove from their interpretation?
  • Do you agree with your peers’ opinions about how drug addiction may be broken? Why or why not?

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