Proposed Experiments: Real- and Apparent-Motion Mediation/Moderation of Opponent-Process Effects

This was written for Washington State University’s PSYCH-491 (Principles of Learning) course.

Choose one aspect of learning and behavior you are curious about and propose a study to investigate it…


Regarding behavior, I’d be curious to what degree biological drives toward emotional homeostasis (i.e., opponent process model; Solomon & Corbit, 1974) factors into emotional shaping of behavior (Baumeister et al., 2007) in different situations (e.g., real motion, apparent motion). The research question would be whether real and apparent motion situations have marked alteration on the seeking of homeostasis in emotion within the context of the opponent-process model. With respect to opponent-process’s potential effect on real- and apparent-motion, this can be made falsifiable by a paired real- and apparent-motion experimental design.


There is evidence of similar activation in fMRI in real and apparent motion (Larsen et al., 2006). It is expected that following Larsen et al.’s results, that opponent-process differences between viewers of real motion and apparent motion be the same (i.e., null hypothesis, H0). If results suggest a statistically significant difference in opponent-process effect, then an alternate explanation (i.e., alternate hypothesis, H1) could be that there are differences in processing of real and apparent motion (i.e., differences in learning) with respect to opponent-process effects. Effect sizes will be interesting to measure, if any, as these results, if any, would contribute to existing literature of a digital economy’s effects, or lack thereof on ecologies of human communities.


Participants. I would have to say that I would seek human participants for this investigation due to experimental design complexity (mentioned below) rather than animals, though animal experiments and opponent-process have been executed (see Rosellini & Lashley, 1982). 

Situations & Data Recording. Two situations will be part of the experimental design. The first situation is a real motion kitchen scene of actors performing a series of movements and interactions whereupon participants will view the scene through a viewing “window” in an observation room adjacent. The second situation is a paired video of the first situation replicating the observation room’s layout where the monitor serves in place of the viewing window. An eye tracking device will be used to measure eye movement & saccades, and a small keypad will register emotions (e.g., pleasure, sadness, anger, etc.). The observation rooms will receive randomized numbers for each experimental trial to avoid sequencing effects. Observers will record observations of participant behavior in the interactions with the emotion registration. A small battery of psychometrics will be recorded prior to the experiment, and post to control for possible confounds and provide additional analysis data.

Procedure. In the first phase, participants will receive informed consent. The second phase will consist of psychometrics for later post-hoc analysis. The third phase will divide participants into four groups (e.g., a, b, c, d), the first two groups are control groups (a, b) and will receive paired random assignment to rooms for continuous recording from start of scene to end of scene. The second two groups are experimental groups (c, d) and will be subject to an affect manipulation (arousal condition), receive a manipulation check, and then receive paired random assignment to rooms for continuous recording as the first two control groups. The independent variable (IV) in this experiment is operationally defined as successful affect manipulation in elevated arousal, and the dependent variable (DV) in this experiment is affect deviance between control group and experimental group at a specific moment in the scene (e.g., partner reports job loss after secure attachment style arrival at home). Following the scenes, participants will receive a debriefing.


This section is clearly absent but would use standard manipulation checks (i.e., t-tests) to test for IV manipulation of arousal and ANOVA to determine statistical significance of differences between real- and apparent-motion experiences to determine whether H0 is disconfirmed, “opening the door” to alternate explanations. Post-hoc analysis can use psychometrics to examine for and control for any potential confounds for future recommendations and to identify weaknesses in experimental design. 


It needs to be said that this is a sensitive experiment and would be rather informative and impactful, therefore conclusions would need to be very carefully stated and sensitive. If results demonstrate statistical significance, then there may be implications that could impact policy. The results would need to be shared with the “larger scientific community” and require replication. In follow on recommendations, if there is statistically significant difference, this experimental design could be used to continue Bandura’s (2016) work on moral disengagement. I would potentially recommend a covert measure of the button’s lateral (i.e., proximodistal) pressure to record a behavior operationalized as pushing away and pulling toward regardless of emotional button selection to use in evaluation that would be revealed in debriefing.


Bandura, A. (2016). Moral disengagement: How people do harm and live with themselves. Worth Publishers.

Baumeister, R. F., Vohs, K. D., Nathan DeWall, C., & Zhang, L. (2007). How emotion shapes behavior: Feedback, anticipation, and reflection, rather than direct causation. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 11(2), 167–203.

Larsen, A., Madsen, K. H., Lund, T. E., & Bundesen, C. (2006). Images of illusory motion in primary visual cortex. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 18, 1174–1180.

Rosellini, R. A., & Lashley, R. L. (1982). The opponent-process theory of motivation: VIII. Quantitative and qualitative manipulations of food both modulate adjunctive behavior. Learning and Motivation, 13(2), 222-239.

Solomon, R. L., & Corbit, J. D. (1974). An opponent-process theory of motivation: I. Temporal dynamics of affect. Psychological Review81(2), 119-145.