Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 12, Issue 4, pp 333–351 | Cite as

Opponent processes in human emotions? An experimental investigation of hedonic contrast and affective interactions

  • Robert Mauro


Three hypotheses of opponent process theory (e.g., Solomon, 1980) were examined: (1) Following the removal of emotionally charged stimuli, an emotional response “opposite” in hedonic tone to the initial affective response will occur; (2) this response occurs as a reaction to the initial affective response (and is not the result of perceptual processes or reinterpretations of the situation); and (3) when opponent affective processes cooccur, they tend to cancel each other's effects.

Individuals were led to associate happiness and sadness with stimuli through hypnotic inductions; other stimuli were conditioned to the emotional responses that followed the offset of these stimuli. On both physiological and self-report measures, affective afterreactions were observed following the termination of a stimulus eliciting happiness in a context where this result could not be attributed to individuals' perceptions of the likelihood of future pleasant events or to changes in the individuals' adaptation levels. In agreement with previous findings, no afterreaction following the termination of a stimulus eliciting sadness was observed. Evidence that affective processes interact was also obtained. When opponent affective processes cooccur, they appear to interact and cancel. When two nonopponent affective processes are elicited simultaneously, they appear to add or average. This result supports the assumption, common to many theories of emotion, that affective processes interact to determine individuals' observed emotional states.


Experimental Investigation Social Psychology Emotional State Emotional Response Process Interact 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert Mauro
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of OregonEugene

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