A fundamental problem is to understand why quantum theory only violates some noncontextuality (NC) inequalities and identify the physical principles that prevent higher-than-quantum violations. We prove that quantum theory only violates those NC inequalities whose exclusivity graphs contain, as induced subgraphs, odd cycles of length 5 or more, and/or their complements. In addition, we show that odd cycles are the exclusivity graphs of a well-known family of NC inequalities and that there is also a family of NC inequalities whose exclusivity graphs are the complements of odd cycles. We characterize the maximum noncontextual and quantum values of these inequalities, and provide evidence supporting the conjecture that the maximum quantum violation of these inequalities is exactly singled out by the exclusivity principle.
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