The Costs of Pleasure and the Benefits of Pain

The Opponent-Process Theory of Acquired Motivation is that, if i’ve got it right, any innate releaser will be habituated to. The removal of the stimulus involves an opposite reaction (for pleasurable stimuli, pain; for painful stimuli, pleasure at their removal). Habituation results in the exaggeration of this opponent-process evoked reaction, and so stimuli which might previously have been avoided have the capacity to become innately rewarding, thus widening the space of stimuli that can reinforce behaviour.

Another feature of the opponent-process theory warrents comment. It is obviously a puritan’s theory. It argues for the existence of psychological mechanisms for the automatic or autonomic control of affect, such that repeated pleasures lose a lot of their pleasentness and make one potentially capable of new sources of suffering; in the same vein, repeated aversive events lose a lot of their unpleasentness and make one potentially capable of new sources of pleasure. The philosophical implications of such a theory should be obvious.

Solomon, Richard L.

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