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An Opponent Process Theory of Job Satisfaction
Frank J. Landy
Pennsylvania State University The role of job satisfaction in research and theory in the area of industrial and organizational psychology is considered. Job satisfaction seems to occupy a position as the hedonic or affective component in theories of motivation. In spite of its importance, little theory is available for understanding the affective state represented by the concept of job satisfaction. Opponent process theory is suggested as a reasonable deductive statement for a consideration of the phenomenon of satisfaction. The theory proposes that every excursion from hedonic neutrality is accompanied by an attempt to bring the excursion back within "normal" limits. This return to normal levels is accomplished via an opponent process. The theory further suggests that the opponent process grows in strength with use. The theory is applied to some current questions regarding the relationship between job satisfaction and work motivation. The major parameters of the theory are represented by a series of research hypotheses and corollaries. Job satisfaction is a popular concept in strongly negative one. The position that the industrial and organizational psychology. The individual occupies depends on both internal reasons for its popularity have been well and external variables. Job-related stimuli documented in Locke's (1976) recent chapter comprise a class of these variables. Thus, it is in the Handbook of Industrial and Organiza- assumed that, at least in part, a person's tional Psychology (Dunnette, 1976). At various emotional state is affected by interactions with times, the concept has been a dependent the work environment. It is normally this variable, an independent variable, a covariate, portion of general hedonic or affective variance and a moderator variable. It has been linked that is referred to as job satisfaction. to productivity, motivation, absenteeism and Locke (1976) defines job satisfaction as tardiness, accidents, mental health, physical "a pleasurable or positive emotional state health, and general life satisfaction. Fifty resulting from the appraisal of one's job or job years of research have attempted to document experiences" (p. 1300). This definition highthe relationship between an individual's lights one of the major questions addressed feelings about his or her job and that individ- in job satisfaction research: Under what ual's behavior. conditions does a positive or negative state arise? There does seem to be one common theme The answer to this question has implications that pervades the research on job satisfaction. for theories of work motivation. At a basic An affective state is implied. It is assumed that level, all models of work motivation imply at any specific point in time, an individual that individuals will expend energy in mainoccupies a point on a continuum that ranges taining or increasing pleasurable experiences; from a strongly positive emotional state to a conversely, energy will be expended in minimizing or decreasing unpleasant experiences. Thus, the affective reaction of an individual The author is grateful to Mary Dunnette, Jim Farr, John Hall, Jeanne Herman, and to the late Don to work-related stimuli (either positive or Trurabo for comments on an earlier version of this negative) is an indication of the potential manuscript. power that those stimuli have for affecting Requests for reprints should be sent to Frank J. Landy, Department of Psychology, Pennsylvania the individual's behavior. As an illustration of the role of job satisfacState University, University Park, Pennsylvania 16802.
Copyright 1978 by the American Psychological Association, Inc. 0021-9010/78/6305-0533$00.75
FRANK J. LANDY
tion in current theories of work motivation, consider Maslow's (1943) need hierarchy theory. In this framework, unfulfilled lower needs represent a deficiency in the individual; this deficiency is experienced as discomfort by the individual. Presumably, if an individual were asked a question concerning well-being while "under the influence" of this deficiency, the answer would imply some dissatisfaction. The theory proposes that the individual will engage in actions that will diminish this discomfort. The same basic mechanism seems to be implied in the fulfillment of upper level needs. Once lower level needs are fulfilled, the degree to which upper levels needs are fulfilled assumes major importance for determining the degree of satisfaction of dissatisfaction that an individual experiences. Once again, the theory implies that if an individual were asked questions concerning his or her wellbeing, the answers would reflect the degree to which the individual perceived these upper level needs as being met, and concomitantly, the degree to which the individual would engage in activities aimed at fulfilling these needs. Thus, in need hierarchy theory, states of satisfaction-dissatisfaction precede directed behavior. Additionally, since there is no firm continuum underlying the ordering of Maslow's needs in the hierarchy, one might infer that satisfaction at one level functions as a release mechanism for dissatisfaction at the next higher level. In equity theory, dissatisfaction is an unpleasant aftereffect of discordant cognitions. As such, this dissatisfaction represents a source of tension to be reduced, and the organism expends energy in service of this reduction. The discordant cognitions are the result of individuals' comparisons of their own inputs and outcomes to the inputs and outcomes of significant others. In that sense, equity theory emphasizes the role of social stimuli in general hedonic states. Nevertheless, the implicit assumption that individuals will engage in activities to reduce tension or discomfort is similar to the one proposed by Maslow. Research in equity theory has attempted to show that individuals with discordant cognitions report dissatisfactions; this dissatisfaction is thought to represent felt tension; it is proposed that individuals will engage in
activities related to the reduction of this tension. The role of satisfaction in equity theory is less clear. The most reasonable interpretation of available theoretical discussion and empirical research is that satisfaction is the absence of dissatisfaction. There has been little attention devoted to the phenomenon of the positive end of the hedonic continuum by researchers using the equity paradigm. Finally, in the Porter and Lawler (1968) version of Vroom's (1964) VIE model, satisfaction is hypothesized to be a derivative variable, depending for its value on the match between expected and obtained rewards. Satisfaction, in turn, has a general excitatory or inhibitory effect on future estimations made by the person concerning the value of promised rewards. By virtue of the capacity to remember pleasant and unpleasant experiences and relate these experiences to specific contexts and stimuli, the individual is able to anticipate future hedonic experiences and choose behavioral alternatives accordingly. Even though the work motivation theories presented above are only a sample of a much larger domain, they are representative of the implied role of job satisfaction in the area of work motivation. The following general principles would hold for most of these theories: (a) The hedonic state of an individual can be located on a continuum from positive (pleasant) to negative (unpleasant), and (b) there are systematic interactions between the emotional state of an individual and workrelated variables. These work-related variables may either be temporally antecedent to the emotional state (e.g., reward policies of the organization) or temporally consequent to the emotional state (e.g., absenteeism or tardiness). In the motivation theories presented above, job satisfaction had clear emotional overtones. It represented a psychophysiological state of pleasure or displeasure. This psychophysiological state had implications for future action choices by the individual. Thus, it is surprising that there have been no well-articulated theories that include hedonic components in accompanying postulates or corollaries. Most research attention has been directed toward identifying the environmental elements or conditions capable of producing positive or negative emotional states. Taylor (1947)
implied that monetary rewards mediated these to recognize that attention has been paid emotional states in workers. The Hawthorne almost exclusively to the conditions antecedent researchers replaced monetary rewards with to that affective state (Lawler, 1973). Little social rewards and incentives (Roethlisberger or no attention has been paid to the character& Dixon, 1939). Schaffer (1953) introduced istics of the state itself or to the intra-individual the notion of individual differences in the past history of that state. For example, few salience of rewards. Maslow (1943) suggested researchers in the area would quarrel with the five sources of satisfaction and dissatisfaction. proposition that the perception of constant Herzberg, Mausner, and Snyderman (1959) levels of work-related stimuli (such as pay, proposed two general sources, and Alderfer co-workers, or challenge) changes systemat(1969) suggested three classes of potential ically over time. Yet no current theories of rewards. Even though they were not clearly job satisfaction suggest any mechanisms for "content theorists," the Cornell researchers understanding this change. A valuable theory (Smith, Kendall, & Hulin, 1969) implied five of hedonic states and their effects on behavior sources of job satisfaction. Locke (1976) should be able to deal with these systematic proposes that feelings of well-being or satisfac- and gradual changes in hedonic states over tion derive from a system of values rather than time. There have been some attempts to deal from needs. While needs are innate, values with these changes in the general experimental are assumed to be learned. It is these values paradigm as adaptation (Helson, 1964) or that determine the individual's actual choices habituation (Groves & Thompson, 1970). In and emotional reactions. Thus, values are the industrial and organizational area, mechthought to be the determiners of hedonic states. anisms like arousal or activation have been In addition to content theories of satisfac- invoked to deal with perceptions of stimulus tion, emphasizing the source of the emotional change (Duffy, 1962; McGrath, 1970; Scott, state, there have been various process theories 1966). Nevertheless, the issue of satisfaction of satisfaction, suggesting how various reac- is seldom explicitly addressed in these contions to environmental stimuli combine to siderations. As I have indicated above, the produce the state called satisfaction or hedonic state represented by the term satisfacdissatisfaction. Early theorists implied a single tion has some rather important implications variable, linear model. Schaffer (1953) made for more general theories of industrial behavior. some radical changes in that model. He Consequently, theories of satisfaction should suggested multiple variables with weights more clearly address the characteristics of the determined by need strength. This might be state itself, not solely the antecedents of this thought of as the discrepancy model (Lawler, state. 1973) and is characteristic of the work of The present article is an attempt to adapt many satisfaction researchers (Katzell, 1964; a general theory of derived motivation Likert, 1961; Morse, 1953). Herzberg et al. (Solomon & Corbit, 1973) to a specific con(1959) suggested a radically different process sideration of the phenomenon of job satisfacmodel proposing that satisfaction and dissatis- tion. In this adaptation, specific emphasis faction were not on a single continuum and will be placed on affective arousal, mainthat there were limits to the effects of increased tenance, and decay as separate processes. It is "rewards," yielding asymptotic curves. Recent hoped that by decomposing the phenomenon work by more cognitively oriented theorists of job satisfaction-dissatisfaction and reducing has generally followed a discrepancy framework it to simpler process components, the flexibility in which rewards are thought to be linearly and utility of the concept will be broadened. and additively related to the general emotional state on a satisfaction-dissatisfaction conAn Opponent Process Theory of tinuum. Job Satisfaction If one accepts the proposition that job satisfaction represents some affective state In several recent articles, Solomon (Hoffman that is an important component of most & Solomon, 1974; Solomon & Corbit, 1973, theories of work motivation, it is distressing 1974) proposes that many emotional or hedonic
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_ ittr&shold Hedonic _^ Neutrality \. Opponent Process I STIMULUS I
Figure 1. Underlying opponent processes after few stimulus presentations.
states that can be commonly observed in humans seem to follow a regular pattern of change. This pattern of change suggests that there is a two-phase underlying process governing manifest emotional behavior. The first stage is excitatory and commences with stimulus presentation. This is called the primary process. The second state is inhibitory (at least initially) and is instigated by the excitatory or primary state. The second stage is called the opponent process. Figure 1 graphically depicts the interaction of the two processes. Stimulus onset is shown at the bottom of the figure. The upper portion of the figure shows the effect of the stimulus onset on the primary process and the sequential effect of the primary process on the opponent process when a hedonic threshold is exceeded. Solomon proposes that the inhibitory or opponent process seems to function as a control on the level of stimulation. The model implies that there are limits to a departure Hedonic from hedonic neutrality that are acceptable to the organism. The interaction of the primary Neutrality and opponent processes is thought to be governed by neural mechanisms that place limits on levels of excitation. Thus, the operation of the mechanism is straightforward: (a) the organism is excited by external stimulation; (b) when excitation exceeds critical STIMULUS! levels, an opposing inhibitory process comtermination onset mences to bring excitation within normal or acceptable levels; (c) when external stimulation Figure 2. Manifest hedonic response after few stimulus disappears, the primary process ceases, and presentations.
shortly thereafter, the opponent process decays as well. Figure 2 presents the net effect of stimulus onset and termination and the joint operation of the primary and opponent processes. Thus, Figure 2 represents the behavioral manifestation of the opposing processes. Solomon suggests that this type of model is most parsimonious for explaining a number of hedonic phenomena. In support of the model, he presents data from both infrahuman and human studies of "emotionality." These studies include examinations of imprinting behavior in young ducklings, responses of dogs to varying amounts of electrical shock, reactions of parachutists to free-fall conditions, responses to the loss of a loved one, cyclic variations in opiate usage, and cyclic variations characteristic of cigarette addiction. He points out that when individuals are stimulated above some level, they do not return immediately to some "base" level when the source of stimulation is removed. Instead, they tend to "overshoot" the base level in a direction opposite to that produced by the original stimulation. Only gradually do they return to base level. This overshoot phenomenon can be seen both physiologically and behaviorally. Solomon stresses the capacity of the opponent process mechanism to explain systematic changes in hedonic responses over time. It is this capacity that makes the theory potentially useful in understanding the phenomenon of job satisfaction. There are a number of theoretical postulates that must be presented
in order to fully understand how the propositions relate to hedonic change. The first major postulate is that there are central nervous system mechanisms that function in such a manner as to reduce all variations beyond some normal excursions from hedonic neutrality. Such mechanisms must assume the role of a hypothetical construct at this point. Nevertheless, it is no less reasonable than other similar constructs such as "activation" or "arousal" levels (Duffy, 1962; Scott, 1966). The second postulate of the theory is that these mechanisms work identically for positive and negative stimuli. As far as central nervous system responses are concerned, both positive and negative variations from hedonic neutrality are equally threatening. Once again, this assumption is similar to the inverted-U hypothesis of the arousal models (Duffy, 1962). The overarousal end of the continuum implies that too much stimulation is counterproductive to the organism regardless of whether the source is thought to be pleasant or unpleasant on a normative basis. The third postulate is that, at least initially, both the primary response to the stimulus (primary process) and the mechanism attempting to control this primary process (the opponent process) are automatic rather than learned. The fourth postulate is that the process of stimulus reduction begins at the point at which some hedonic threshold is exceeded. This stimulus reduction or opponent process might be thought of as a negative feedback loop or dampening mechanism. Further, it is assumed that the opponent process is somewhat sluggish in decay. Thus, while the primary affective response system decays quickly after external stimulation is terminated, the opponent process disappears more slowly. The final postulate is, by far, the most crucial. It is assumed that the opponent process is strengthened with use and weakened with disuse. It is this final assumption that lays the groundwork for explaining systematic change in hedonic response levels to constant stimuli. A corollary of this proposition is that the primary process or response to stimulation never changes in intensity or reactivity. It is only the opponent process
that changes as a function of stimulus presentation. It is important to note that the two processes are inextricably bound when some threshold level of stimulation is exceeded. In this case, the opponent process is referred to as a " slave" process. Although the opponent process assumptions do not deny the propositions of arousal theorists, the theory does imply that once some critical level of arousal is attained, monotonicity of hedonic responsiveness disappears. Although Solomon suggests that the opponent process mechanism operates identically for both positive and negative primary stimulation, there is one basic difference between the positive and negative primary process with respect to the behavior of individuals. A negative primary process is produced by an aversive stimulus. At least initially, individuals are unlikely to engage in actions voluntarily that would lead to aversive stimulus onset. This would continue to be true until the opponent process (opposite in sign, thus, positive) grew in strength sufficient to suppress the aversive effects of the primary stimulus and produce a pleasant decay period following stimulus termination. This is not true with primary positive states. Individuals will engage in activities necessary to produce the positive primary states voluntarily. As the opponent process grows in strength (a negative opponent process, in this case), individuals will increasingly engage in activities that will cause the reoccurrence of the pleasant primary state and the termination of the unpleasant opponent state. Thus, there is some asymmetry to the positive and negative primary and opponent states. This asymmetry will be important in applying the opponent process theory to the concept of job satisfaction. Even though the focus of the present article is not on the content aspects of job satisfaction (i.e., exactly which factors "cause" satisfaction or dissatisfaction) but rather on the process aspects (i.e., the operations which govern the emergence, maintenance, and decay of jobrelated emotional states), some attention should be given to how job-related stimuli might be categorized as positive or negative on an a priori basis. Such a categorization is
FRANK J. LANDY
Figure 3. Underlying opponent processes after many stimulus presentations.
important in avoiding tautologies similar to those that hindered the behaviorists in their attempts to define reinforcement. There are several alternatives that might be chosen for an initial attempt at categorization. One might choose the operant paradigm by defining positive stimuli as those that increase the probability of a class of responses when the presentation of these stimuli is made contingent upon a response of that class. Most content theories of satisfaction presume such parametric information (e.g., two-factor theory; the Cornell studies) or ignore the implied circularity (e.g., pleasant working conditions are satisfying). The asymmetry of primary hedonic states under conditions of pleasurable and aversive initial stimulation demands rigorous and independent definitions of the properties of these stimuli. The operant paradigm peresents one avenue for resolution. It was indicated above that the theory proposes that the opponent process grows in strength with use and decreases in strength with disuse. This implies that the manifest hedonic response of an individual after few stimulations will be different than that for the same individual after many stimulations. Figure 2 depicted the manifest hedonic response level after few stimulations. In Figure 3, hypothetical primary and opponent processes are shown after many stimulations. Notice the increase in strength of the opponent process compared to the strength of the process
in Figure 1. Figure 4 presents the manifest hedonic response after many stimulus presentations. Once again, notice the dramatic difference between the two manifest hedonic responses represented by Figures 2 and 4. Notice particularly the effect of the termination or weakening of stimulation after many stimulus presentations. If the original stimulus would be considered "positive," the aftereffect would be negative. If the original stimulus were aversive, the aftereffect would be positive. Based on the assumption that the opponent process grows in strength and that speed of initiation is directly proportional to its use, we would predict that after many stimulations, an individual has a much more modest hedonic response to stimulus presentation but a much more dramatic and opposite response to stimulus termination. Since his original statement of the theory, Solomon (Star & Solomon, Note 1) has investigated conditions surrounding the development and decay of opponent processes. Of major importance was a recent finding that the opponent process seemed to increase in strength only when the interstimulusinterval period was less than the decay period for the opponent hedonic response. This suggests the operation of classically conditioned mechanisms in opponent process operation. There is a good deal of work to be done on the basic propositions of the model. For example, Solomon suggests that there may be primary processes that have no corresponding opponent processes (Solomon & Corbit, 1974). It is more likely that the speed with which opponent processes develop, and their ultimate strength, is related to the degree to which stimulus termination can be identified
Hedonic L Neutrality
Figure 4. Manifest hedonic response after many stimulus presentations.
by the organism. Consequently, we are more likely to find well-developed opponent processes in situations in which stimulus presentation follows cyclic parameters closely. Examples of such situations would be invariant taskspecific cycle time, fixed reward intervals, and other consistent temporal parameters governing individual-environment interactions. It will be necessary to conduct basic investigations in the area of contexts that are more or less conducive to the development of opponent processes. In addition, basic research must be conducted to determine the properties of several parameters of the model, for example, initiation time, response intensity, and decay time for primary and opponent processes. Nevertheless, the model provides some explanatory mechanisms that are crucial for understanding the role of hedonic states in theories of satisfaction. In particular, the theory provides an excellent framework for understanding the affective responses of workers to work-related stimuli as well as a description of how those responses change as a function of repeated stimulus presentation. Opponent process theory describes a manifest emotional state (e.g., job satisfaction-dissatisfaction) as the resolution of two opposing hedonic processes. Further, it suggests a mechanism for understanding how stimuli in the work environment lose their value. The theory is not particularly parsimonious compared to other process theories such as Schaffer's (1953) or Lawler's (1973). Nevertheless, when the simpler theories attempt to explain why two individuals respond differently to the same job conditions, their arguments often become circular (e.g., "individual differences in the salience of various rewards must be taken into account as well . . .")• In such cases, parsimony is a vice not a virtue. We are asked to accept individual differences as an explanation rather than an admission of ignorance. In the area of job satisfaction, the opponent process theory implies the opposite of parsimony, reductionism. It implies that previous process theories have stopped short of efficient explanation. To be sure, there will be individual difference parameters in the opponent process model as well. Some of these will be introduced in a later section. Nevertheless, it should be clear that the
opponent process theory has both methodological and theoretical implications for the area of job satisfaction. In the next section, some of these implications will be introduced. Measurement Implications If the opponent process theory is a reasonable process structure for understanding an individual's response to work-related stimuli, there are a number of serious implications for the ways in which that hedonic response is measured. The most serious of these implications is the role of temporal variables in the measurement of satisfaction. From an inspection of Figure 4, it should be clear that a response to a satisfaction question will vary depending upon whether the question is asked prior to stimulus onset, prior to stimulus termination, or after stimulus termination. Further, the intensity of the response will depend on whether the stimulus has been encountered often or seldom. Finally, the direction of the satisfaction response (positive-negative) will depend on the interaction between the direction of the primary state (positive-negative) and the point on the hedonic continuum when the response is provided (stimulus on-stimulus off). A second major measurement implication is that correlational within-subject designs purporting to address stability of satisfaction are inappropriate. The opponent process model would suggest that while correlatons between responses on two separate occasions may be high, absolute levels of satisfaction can vary dramatically as a function of the number of stimulus presentations between the first and second measurements. In addition, low correlations over time may be a result of unequal numbers of stimulus presentations across individuals rather than inherent structural flaws in the instrument used to measure satisfaction. A third measurement implication has to do with the role of reward salience, valence, or importance. It is common in satisfaction studies to ask a subject how important or salient a particular reward is. A number representing the degree of that importance is then used as a multiplier of some kind in a "need strength-need satisfaction" paradigm
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(e.g., Schaffer, 1953; Vroom, 1964). The opponent process theory suggests that the importance an individual attaches to a potential reward will be affected by both the decay period of the last presentation of that reward and the number of previous presentations of that reward. An examination of Figure 4 might make this point clearer. If relative importance of a particular reward is assessed by means of self-report measures prior to stimulus termination, it is likely to be considered less important than after the individual returns to base or prereward level; if importance is measured after stimulus termination but prior to return to base or prereward level, the factor will likely be considered very important. In fact, reported satisfaction with the element should be identical to reported importance of the element. This is exactly what has been demonstrated in previous research (Ewen, 1967; Locke, 1976). In a similar manner, individuals who have experienced many previous stimulus presentations should assign relatively less importance to stimuli prior to stimulus termination than individuals with fewer previous stimulus presentations. Such a mechanism was suggested originally by Maslow (1943) in an attempt to build in individual differences parameters to his concept of a need hierarchy. There are certainly many other measurement implications. Those mentioned above represent a sample of a larger domain. Nevertheless, even this small sample suggests that (a) satisfaction reponses should be gathered within individuals across occasions, (b) analyses of change over time should include both level and shape changes, and (c) verbal report of satisfaction and/or importance responses must be examined for systematic temporal hedonic effects. A corollary to this third suggestion is that physiological, psychophysiological, and behavioral indicators of hedonic level or state be examined for estimates of satisfaction. While the physiological and psychophysiological effects of satisfaction and dissatisfaction have been considered by researchers in the recent past (Frankenhauser, 1974; Kahn, 1973), few researchers have considered anchoring satisfaction-dissatisfaction in physiological or psycholophysiological networks.
Theoretical Implications In a recent examination of the current state of work motivation theory, Campbell and Pritchard (1976) identify the role of reinforcement as crucial in experimentally grounded theories of work motivation. This would be particularly true for unadorned associationist and reinforcement positions but would also have implications for need and drive theorists as well. The basic question is "What makes a reinforcer reinforcing?" While opponent process theory does not purport to answer the content question implied, it does deal more effectively with a corollary to that question than other theories, that is, Under what conditions will reinforcers increase and decrease in strength. Campbell and Pritchard suggest that the mechanism of reinforcement might be found in the central nervous system, citing the work of Miller (1957) and Olds (1962), among others. They also imply that the work of the "activation" and arousal-level theorists leads to an examination of physiological changes as reinforcements in and of themselves. If that were to be the case, the opponent process theory would assume content aspects as well. If one assumes (a) that job satisfaction (regardless of how it is operationalized) represents a point on a hedonic continuum, (b) that hedonic level covaries with reinforcement, and (c) that reinforcement has implications for directed energy, then the opponent process theory would seem to represent a move in the direction suggested by Campbell and Prichard. The relationship between the opponent process theory and the construct of arousal is hard to ignore. Both imply some optimal level of stimulation, and both imply that beyond that level both "positive" and "negative" stimulation are equally counterproductive. Nevertheless, opponent process theory is able to extend the construct of arousal or activation by suggesting a mechanism for understanding shifting base arousal levels. Berlyne (1967) has suggested that progress in understanding the impact of arousal on manifest behavior can be made by considering the interaction of arousal and reinforcement. These mechanisms and interaction processes are well represented in the primary and
opposing processes suggested by Solomon. In this light, arousal occupies the role of a hypothetical construct while opponent process theory helps to define that construct operationally and to suggest theoretical postulates and their concomitant corollaries. Campbell and Pritchard (1976) suggest that there is sufficient evidence available to conclude that the "overall judgment about the job (job satisfaction) is made up of two, sub-general factors corresponding roughly to the intrinsic vs. extrinsic breakdown originally indentified by Herzberg" (p. 103). Thus, independent of Herzberg's propositions, a review of the available literature suggests that there are at least two distinct classes of job-related factors that have the capacity to effect manifest behavioral patterns of workers. Several researchers have suggested that these two classes of factors have differential main effects as well as interactive effects on manifest behavior (deCharms, 1968; Deci, 1972, 1975; Herzberg et al., 1959). Opponent process theory would also suggest differential main effects, although interactive effects would not be as clear. Let us assume that the presentation of extrinsic factors generally results in a positive primary state. The presentation of money, the opportunity to interact with co-workers, a promotion, etc., are much more likely to result in positive hedonic states than negative ones in a random sample of subjects. That is not to say that every individual will be equally pleased with the every extrinsic element, but that in a normative sense, the presentation of stimulus elements comprising the class "extrinsic" will most likely yield pleasant hedonic states. Intrinsic factors are represented by such terms as responsibility, challenge, demand, etc. A number of theories (Herzberg et al., 1959; Locke," 1965; McClelland, 1961) suggest that it is not the challenge itself that produces a pleasurable state, but successfully meeting that challenge. In a recent consideration of the relationship of challenge or increased responsibility to job satisfaction, Locke (1976) proposed that "these challenges must be successfully overcome for the individual to experience pleasure" (p. 1320). If one were to invoke the propositions of the opponent process theory to describe the phenomenon, one
would deduce that the challenge represents a "stimulus on" condition and meeting the challenge or overcoming the obstacle represents stimulus termination. Further, if the "stimulus off" condition produces a pleasurable state, then the stimulus on state must be opposite in sign or unpleasant. If this were the case, one should be able to demonstrate that individuals initially require some urging to accept increased challenge and responsibility since the primary state is negative and the opponent state is initially weak. This further suggests that individuals will initially attempt to avoid challenge when possible rather than meeting it and overcoming obstacles to success. After repeated presentations of challenge or increased responsibility followed by successful strategies for meeting that challenge, the challenge itself should become less aversive and the hedonic state following successful meeting of that challenge should become more pleasurable. These predictions would follow directly from the proposition that the opponent process grows in strength with use. If we were to return briefly to a consideration of the effect of repeated presentations of extrinsic factors on hedonic state, we would observe the converse of the effect of intrinsic factors such as challenge. The repeated presentation of the extrinsic factor should result in diminishing levels of pleasure. The presentation of these factors would be considered the stimulus on condition. The absence of these factors would be considered the stimulus off condition, and the theory would predict that increasing levels of displeasure would be associated with these stimulus elements in direct proportion to the number of stimulus presentations. Thus, after extended periods of time, elements that originally had power over behavioral choice by virtue of their presence now have control only by virtue of their actual or threatened absence. In summary, opponent process theory predicts the affective reactions among experienced workers to intrinsic and extrinsic factors on the job; intrinsic factors have the capacity to yield neutral hedonic states in their presence and positive hedonic aftereffects; extrinsic factors produce neutral hedonic states in their presence and negative hedonic aftereffects. A simpler way of stating this relationship
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might be that extrinsic factors can produce dissatisfaction after their termination and intrinsic factors can produce satisfaction after their termination. If an experienced worker were asked to recall pleasant work-related situations, these situations would involve intrinsic factors (e.g., having overcome a difficult challenge); if the same worker were asked to recall unpleasant work-related situations, these situations would involve extrinsic factors (e.g., the withdrawal of environmental attributes normally seen as pleasurable). Thus, opponent process theory would lead one to deduce the principles that form the basis of Herzberg's inductive theory of job satsifaction. If one considers that challenge produces a negative hedonic state that is replaced with a positive hedonic state when the challenge is met, the implications for feedback in the work setting are rather dramatic. In most work settings, individuals require outside confirmation that a challenge has been met. The most obvious source for this feedback is the supervisor. Thus, if individuals are provided with challenge yet never or seldom told when they have successfully met the challenge (or made progress toward meeting it), one would expect constant levels of negative tension. Feedback indicating that a challenge has been met is necessary for the " termination" of the stimulus represented by the challenge. In this framework, feedback is a necessary but not sufficient condition for producing positive hedonic states. The sufficient condition is controlled by the number of previous presentations of challenge. Mechanisms such as those described above might also help account for the effects of job enrichment. If the enriched job represents increased levels of challenge, initial reactions of workers should be negative to varying degrees (depending on the degree of perceived change between the old levels of challenge and the new levels). As the "new" job is learned and the challenges successfully met, resistance and negative responses should decrease and satisfaction with mastery of the new job should increase. The degree to which the job is enriched should have implications for resulting hedonic states. If the enriched job represents dramatically increased levels of challenge, the potential for dissatisfaction with
the new job is high and prompt performance feedback imperative. An extension of the consideration of job enrichment is an examination of the mirror image, that is, boring tasks. Boredom and dissatisfaction with the work itself are treated synonymously, and both are thought to be a result of lack of mental challenge (Locke, 1976). In spite of the importance of the phenomenon of boredom for understanding workers' reactions to jobs, there are few theories that provide any insights into how tasks become boring. Activation and arousal theory (Duffy, 1962; Scott, 1966) suggest that the particular stimulus element falls below some optimal level, which results in underarousal, a negative hedonic state. Nevertheless, it is commonplace to note that these stimulus elements become "boring" over time. Helson (1964) has suggested that this increasing impotence of stimuli to arouse the organism is a result of some neural mechanism represented by the hypothetical construct of "adaptation level." The operations of hedonic excitation, maintenance, and decay are considerably clearer in the opponent process theory than in the adaptation or arousal level frameworks. This is due in part to the fact that both arousal and adaptation propositions are more directly concerned with action than emotion. Opponent process theory requires one to view the issue of boredom as a more general phenomenon than currently implied by extant literature. The issue becomes one of the habituation level of an organism relative to various classes of stimuli. Thus, one can be just as easily "bored" with levels of pay as one can with tasks required by a particular job. In this framework, job enrichment might be thought of as an instance of stimulus sensitization; boring tasks would be an instance of habituation. In this framework, the adjective boring might be applied to any one of a number of stimulus elements that characterize the job, not just the tasks that define that job. When the concept of boredom is extended in this way, there are few theories of job satisfaction capable of explaining the phenomenon. Groves and Thompson (1970) have suggested that a model of habituation must
include at least the following parameters: time course and recovery, effect of repeated series, effect of stimulus frequency, effect of stimulus intensity, and stimulus generalization gradients. With the exception of the final parameter, opponent process theory meets the requirements. In their consideration of habituation, Groves and Thompson suggest that habituation and stimulus frequency are exponentially related. Thus, opponent process theory would seem uniquely suited for a detailed decomposition of the phenomenon of boredom and an extension of the concept to cover stimulus elements other than job tasks. There are some clear differences between the approach that activation theorists (Scott, 1966) take to decompose the hedonic phenomenon accompanying boredom and that proposed by opponent process theory. The activation position would be that all departures from some idiographic "normal" level would be noxious to the organism and that the organism would attempt to escape from that state and ultimately avoid that state by controlling levels of stimulation. Opponent process theory would separate manifest hedonic behavior from latent states represented by the primary and opponent processes. Thus, individuals would be capable of both positive and negative affective reactions toward stimuli that exceed some threshold. A good deal of recent physiological research (Frankenhauser, 1974) on stress suggests that there are "hidden" costs to the organism for overarousal. This research suggests that individuals are not always capable of recognizing the harmful effects or costs of manifestly pleasant experiences. This line of research clearly implies that not all suprathreshold arousal is considered noxious by the organism, contrary to the propositions of activation theory. Finally, the propositions of opponent process theory suggest some modifications of Locke's goal-setting theory of work motivation and job satisfaction (Locke & Bryan, 1969; Locke, Cartledge, & Knerr, 1970). A major proposition of Locke's approach is that individuals who accept hard goals expend greater energy and have the capacity to experience greater satisfaction than individuals who accept easier goals or no goals at all. As indicated
earlier, Locke (1976) implies that achieving goals produces pleasure, and opponent process theory would imply that setting goals may have negative hedonic effects. Thus, early in a goal-setting "career," individuals will actively resist goal setting and receive minimal amounts of pleasure from achieving those goals. As experience with goal setting and goal attainment increases, resistance should decrease (since the primary state is reduced by the increasingly powerful opponent state) and derived pleasure from goal attainment should increase (since the aftereffect represented by the opponent state becomes increasingly stronger and decays more slowly). Thus, opponent process theory provides goal-setting propositions with a mechanism for describing some affective history. This affective history, in turn, represents an individual differences parameter affecting the likelihood that an individual will accept a hard goal and be satisfied with its achievement. Parametric Investigations It should be obvious that the first major obstacle to be overcome in the application of opponent process theory to the study of job statisfaction is a specification of the parameters of the model. An examination of Figures 1-4 is sufficient to identify most of them. The first major question concerns the definition of a "stimulus." The work environment is rich with stimuli, and one must be able to decompose that environment into main effects and interactions. Opponent process theory demands such dec&mposition to a greater degree than other approaches to satisfaction. The content theories of job satisfaction ask us to accept a limited number of homogeneous stimulus elements. Nevertheless, both the opponent process theory and alternative approaches face this obstable equally. A reasonable strategy for an examination of this question might be borrowed from the experimentalists. The concept of stimulus control (Terrace, 1966) might be a useful strategy for addressing this issue. In such a paradigm, the organism's ability to discriminate among stimuli is of central concern.
FRANK J. LANDY
The experimental designs resemble those associated with constructing generalization gradients for various stimulus elements. Operationally, one might attempt to determine the independence of stimulus elements in terms of the response characteristics of the organism. If the response levels to various stimulus elements is relatively flat, we might conclude that the stimulus elements are not distinct from the point of view of the respondent. On the other hand, if the generalization gradients are steep, we would conclude that the stimulus elements are perceived as independent by the individual. Historically, researchers in the area of the job satisfaction have proposed stimulus groupings on the basis of the verbal responses across individuals. These responses have traditionally been factor or cluster analyzed and functional generalization gradients assumed. This is an imprecise paradigm for determining stimulus properties. The stimulus generalization or stimulus control paradigm is an alternative approach to the problem that may be of some value. A second question relates to the "acceptable" levels of neural stimulation. Opponent process theory proposes that when some threshold is exceeded, the opponent process is activated. The definition of this acceptable-unacceptable excursion from neutrality must be considerably tightened. Once again, this is not a problem peculiar to industrial and organizational psychologists. In some senses, this parameter is tied to the question of when a stimulus is "present." Experimental psychology has dealt with variations of this question in the just noticeable differences paradigm. To some extent, we are describing a process whereby the organism "notices" that stimulus intensity has changed. The question becomes one of identifying the level of stimulus change necessary for the perception of change by the organism. Weber's law and Steven's power functions (Stevens, 1957) are operational definitions of such changes for various modalities. The concept of just noticeable differences is at the heart of equity theory (Adams, 1965; Jaques, 1961). In addition, there have been sporadic attempts to use classic psychophysical operations to plot the effect of increased stimulus intensity against satisfaction in the work setting (Zedeck & Smith, 1968). These
strategies might be easily extended to plot the "power" of various work-related stimuli. This would provide a preliminary specification of the threshold parameter of the model. A third parameter of importance is the decay functions of both the primary and opponent states. When the stimulus is terminated, it is unlikely that the primary state disappears simultaneously. There is bound to be some latency or decay. The same is true, and to a greater extent, of the opponent state. In the simplest terms, the question is "How long does a stimulus last?" The experimental paradigm for studying such a question is one of extinction. Since longitudinal studies of satisfaction have been so infrequent, we know little or nothing about the decay functions of stimulation as a molar concept, let alone the decay of two separate functions such as those represented by the primary and opponent states in opponent process theory. Nevertheless, it is reasonable to propose that a decay parameter interacts with stimulus frequency and intensity. A fourth parameter is suggested by some recent work done by Solomon (Starr & Solomon, Note 1). He suggests that the interstimulus interval is the key to the increasing strength and decreasing latency of the opponent process. Specifically, in laboratory studies it has been found that if the stimulus of interest is presented before the opponent state of the previous stimulus presentation disappears or decays, the opponent state will grow in strength and decrease in latency. Conversely, if the next stimulus presentation conies after the decay or disappearance of the previous opponent state, the opponent state will decrease in strength. This suggests a classical conditioning mechanism connecting the primary and opponent states. This conditioning paradigm might be useful for examining the effect of interstimulus intervals. Intuitively, the concept of interstimulus intervals is an appealing one for work-related phenomena such as reward periods, job cycles, etc., but there has been little or no systematic investigation of this parameter. Although there are other, less obvious, parameters that might be suggested by theory, the major ones have been presented above. These parameters should be important for
any theory of job satisfaction, yet they have not been directly addressed by those considering the question of job satisfaction. The advantage of opponent process theory is that it provides a reason to investigate those parameters as well as a model for placing them in coherent relationships with each other. These conceptual applications of opponent process theory to satisfaction and motivation in work settings are intended to demonstrate the value of considering a new paradigm in the study of job satisfaction. The kinds of questions that opponent process theory raises concerning the phenomenon of job satisfaction have not often been asked in published research. Nevertheless, they are appropriate and even crucial questions if we accept the proposition that the concept of job satisfaction is intended to represent some hedonic state. Most current approaches to job satisfaction (Lawler, 1973) imply that it is a cognitive outcome with simple hedonic consequences. Opponent process theory requires one to consider the nature and consequences of that hedonic state in a more direct and complex manner. To be sure, the opponent process approach is problematic in any setting, but even more so in attempting to explain the field behavior of humans rather than the laboratory behavior in infrahumans. As mentioned earlier, one of the most difficult problems in the application of the theory to the concept of job satisfaction is the notion of stimulus onset and stimulus termination. Since humans have the welldeveloped capacity to abstract, form concepts, and deal with the real world symbolically, one cannot easily control, or even measure, temporal stimulus properties. In addition, there are multiple primary and opponent processes operating simultaneously in the real world. The manner in which these multiple hedonic systems interact becomes a central question for the researcher. The intricacy and complexity of opponent process theory suggests that it is not terribly parsimonious when compared to more compact approaches. Nevertheless, the parsimony of past approaches to job satisfaction has not proven useful in incorporating the concept of satisfaction into the broader question of motivation. Parsimony in theory building is only desirable to the
degree that it improves our understanding or prediction. Suggested Research The immediate research questions suggested by the opponent process theory are parametric in nature. As such, research generated by these questions should prove useful to all theory building in the area of job satisfaction. Below, several of these questions have been formally stated as general hypotheses with specific corollaries: 1. There is a systematic recruitment, maintenance, and decay function that can be used to describe the hedonic response of an individual over time to the presentation of a particular stimulus element, (a) After the presentation of a reward, an individual's satisfaction with that reward will systematically change over time, eventually returning to prereward levels of satisfaction with that reward, (b) Individuals will report both satisfaction and dissatisfaction with constant levels of a particular reward at differing points in time. 2. Repeated stimulus presentation affects the manifest response of an individual to a particular stimulus element, (a) The greater the number of times that a particular reward or punishment has been presented, the longer it will take for an individual to return to prereward or punishment level, (b) The greater the number of times a reward has been presented, the less the satisfaction of the individual with each succeeding presentation, (c) The greater the number of times a reward or punishment has been presented, the greater will be the effect of terminating that reward or punishment on job satisfaction of individuals. 3. The shorter the interval between successive presentations of stimulus elements, the stronger the opposing response to the primary state generated by those stimulus elements, (a) Rewards or punishments that are presented frequently will have smaller immediate effects on job satisfaction than those presented infrequently. 4. Goal-directed activity produces negative primary states and positive opponent states, (a) Individuals will report less satisfaction with a particular task before meeting a goal
FRANK J. LANDY Campbell, J. P., & Pritchard, R. D. Motivation theory in industrial and organizational psychology. In M. Dunnette (Ed.), Handbook of industrial and organizational psychology. Chicago: Rand McNally, 1976. deCharms, R. Personal causation: The internal affective determinants of behavior. New York: Academic Press, 1968. Deci, E. L. The effects of contingent and non-contingent rewards and controls on intrinsic motivation. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 1972, 8, 217-229. Deci, E. L. Intrinsic motivation. New York: Plenum, 1975. Duffy, E. Activation and behavior. New York: Wiley, 1962. Dunnette, M. Handbook of industrial and organizational Psychology. Chicago: Rand McNally, 1976. Ewen, R. B. Weighting components of job satisfaction. Journal of Applied Psychology, 1967, 51, 68-73. Frankenhauser, M. Overstimulation: a threat to the quality of life. In, Man in the communications system of the future. Stockholm: Swedish Cabinet Office, Secretariat for Future Studies, 1974. Groves, P. M., & Thompson, R. F. Habituation: A dual process theory. Psychological Review, 1970, 77, 419-450. Kelson, H. Adaptation level theory: An experimental and systematic approach to behavior. New York: Harper & Row, 1964. Herzberg, F., Mausner, B., & Snyderman, B. B. The motivation to work. New York: Wiley, 1959. Hoffman, H. S., & Solomon, R. L. The opponent process theory of motivation: III. Some affective dynamics in imprinting. Learning and Motivation, 1974, 5, 149-164. Jaques, E. Equitable payment. New York: Wiley, 1961. Kahn, R. L. Conflict, ambiguity, and overload: Three elements in job stress. Occupational Mental Health, 1973, 3, 2-9. Katzell, R. Personal values, job satisfaction, and job behavior. In H. Borow (Ed.), Man in a world at work. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1964. Lawler, E. E. Motivation in work organizations. Monterey, Calif.: Brooks/Cole, 1973. Likert, R. New patterns in management. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1961. Locke, E. The relationship of task success to task liking and satisfaction. Journal of Applied Psychology, 1965, 49, 379-385. Locke, E. A. The nature and causes of job satisfaction. In M. Dunnette (Ed.), Handbook of industrial and organizational psychology. Chicago: Rand McNally, 1976. Locke, E. A., & Bryan, J. F. The directing function of goals in task performance. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 1969, 4, 35-42. Locke, E. A., Cartledge, N., & Knerr, C. S. Studies of the relationship between goal setting, satisfaction, and performance. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 1970, 5, 135-139. Maslow, A. A theory of human motivation. Psycholog' ical Review, 1943, 50, 370-396.
than after meeting a goal, (b) Individuals will report less satisfaction with difficult tasks than with easy tasks prior to meeting a task goal, (c) Individuals will report greater satisfaction with difficult tasks than with easy tasks after meeting a task goal, (d) Individuals with a history of goal setting will report less dissatisfaction during goal-seeking periods than individuals with no history of goal setting. These are just a few of the hypotheses that might be posed on the basis of the opponent process theory and its application to the phenomenon of job satisfaction. There are many other, less obvious, implications of the theory. For example, stimulus intensity seems less critical than stimulus frequency in understanding hedonic response level; it may make little difference for hedonic states if rewards are contingent or noncontingent upon some particular behavior; avoidance and escape mechanisms are as crucial for understanding in industrial behavior as are approach mechanisms. In summary, the questions posed by a consideration of opponent process theory and its applicability to job satisfaction are questions that are crucial for any reasonable theory of job satisfaction. Opponent process theory represents the most well-developed deductive research currently available. As such, it might be efficiently interlaced with current content theories of job satisfaction to yield a more reasonable decomposition of the satisfaction phenomenon. Reference Note
1. Starr, M. D., & Solomon, R. L. Imprinting with brief exposures: Factors affecting the development of separation distress in ducklings. Paper presented at the meeting of the Eastern Psychological Association, New York, April 1976.
Adams, J. S. Injustice in social exchange. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 2). New York: Academic Press, 1965. Alderfer, C. P. An empirical test of a new theory of human needs. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 1969, 4, 142-175. Berlyne, D. E. Arousal and reinforcement. In D. Levine (Ed.), Nebraska Symposium on Motivation (Vol. 15). Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1967.
OPPONENT PROCESS McClelland, D. C. The achieving society. Princeton, N.J.: Van Nostrand, 1961. McGrath, J. Social and psychological factors in stress. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1970, Miller, N. E. Experiments on motivation: Studies combining psychological, physiological, and pharmacological techniques. Science, 19S7, 126', 12711278. Morse, N. C. Satisfactions in the white collar job. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Survey Research Center, 1953. Olds, J. Hypothalamic substrates of reward. Physiological Review, 1962, 42, 554-604. Porter, L. W., & Lawler, E. E. Managerial attitudes and performance. Homewood, 111.: Irwin-Dorsey, 1968. Roethlisberger, F. J., & Dixon, W. J. Management and the worker. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1939. Schaffer, R. H. Job satisfaction as related to need satisfaction in work. Psychological Monographs, 1953, <J7(14, Whole No. 304). Scott, W. E. Activation theory and task design. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 1966, ;, 3-30.
Smith, P. C., Kendall, L. M., & Hulin, C. L. The
measurement of satisfaction in work and retirement.
Chicago: Rand McNally, 1969. Solomon, R. L., & Corbit, J. D. An opponent process theory of motivation: II. Cigarette addiction. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 1973, 81, 158-171. Solomon, R. L., & Corbit, J. D. An opponent process theory of motivation: I. Temporal dynamics of affect. Psychological Review, 1974,81, 119-145. Stevens, S. S. On the psychophysical law. Psychological
Review, 1957, 64, 153-181. Taylor, F. W. Principles of scientific management.
New York: Harper & Row, 1947. Terrace, H. S. Stimulus control. In W. H. Honig (Ed.),
Operant behavior: areas of research and application.
New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1966. Vroom, V. Work and motivation. New York: Wiley, 1964. Zedeck, S., & Smith, P. C. A psychophysical determination of equitable payment. Journal of Applied
Psychology, 1968, 52, 343-347.
Received November 28, 1977 •
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