We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is Opponent Process Theory?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
Our promise to you
The Health Board is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At The Health Board, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Opponent process theory is an explanation of how the experiences of certain sensory and neurological phenomena are linked together. Put simply, the body efficiently processes opposing experiences, such as fear and pleasure, at the same site, making it difficult for people to experience both at once. When stimulation at such a site evokes one experience, a person may experience an "afterimage" of the opposite experience after the stimulation is over. Two areas where opponent process theory have been applied include the understanding of color vision and exploring the close connections between seemingly opposing feelings. This theory can also explain phenomena such as taste.

In the understanding of color vision, opponent process theory is very important. Put simply, the rods and cones perceive things in terms of black/white, red/green, and blue/yellow. When someone looks at a red delicious apple, for example, it stimulates the red/green cones. If someone stares at the apple for at least 30 seconds and then looks at a blank sheet of paper, a ghostly green afterimage will be seen.

Opponent process theory explains why people don't describe colors like "greenish red" or "bluish yellow," but they do see colors like "yellowish green." Individual cones cannot simultaneously process green and red, but green/red and blue/yellow cones can be activated at the same time. It also explains why some people are red/green colorblind, because the cones sensitized to these wavelengths are not functioning properly or the brain is unable to receive signals from them.

This theory is also used to explain what happens when linked emotions are activated. A famous study involved military parachuters. When the men jumped out of aircraft for the first time, they were terrified, with all of the physical symptoms of fear. Upon landing, they experienced a rush of relief. Over repeated exposures to the experience, the fear occurred in shorter and shorter durations, and the relief evolved into pleasure, turning parachuting from a scary activity to an exciting one.

Some people may have noticed that when very intense feelings are evoked, they are followed with a longer and less intense emotion that may be in opposition. Sometimes this secondary emotion sets in before the first one has fully dissipated, creating mixed feelings. Researchers have theorized that the opponent process theory may play a role in addiction, with people seeking out drugs to get the high in order to avoid the low. While opponent process theory cannot completely explain the complex processes involved in addiction, it certainly may be a contributing factor.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Related Articles

Discussion Comments

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
The Health Board, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

The Health Board, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.