A general approach - avoidance hypothesis of Oxytocin: Accounting for social and non-social effects of oxytocin

Osnat Harari-Dahan, Amit Bernstein

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background: We critically reexamine extant theory and empirical study of Oxytocin. We question whether OT is, in fact, a ". social neuropeptide" as argued in dominant theories of OT. Method: We critically review human and animal research on the social and non-social effects of Oxytocin, including behavioral, psychophysiological, neurobiological, and neuroimaging studies. Results: We find that extant (social) theories of Oxytocin do not account for well-documented non-social effects of Oxytocin. Furthermore, we find a range of evidence that social and non-social effects of Oxytocin may be mediated by core approach - avoidance motivational processes. Conclusions: We propose a General Approach - Avoidance Hypothesis of Oxytocin (GAAO). We argue that the GAAO may provide a parsimonious account of established social and non-social effects of Oxytocin. We thus re-conceptualize the basic function(s) and mechanism(s) of action of Oxytocin. Finally, we highlight implications of the GAAO for basic and clinical research in humans.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)506-519
Number of pages14
JournalNeuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Dr. Bernstein recognizes the funding support from the Israeli Council for Higher Education Yigal Alon Fellowship, the European Union FP-7 Marie Curie Fellowship International Reintegration Grant, Psychology Beyond Borders Mission Award, Israel Science Foundation, the University of Haifa Research Authority Exploratory Grant, and the Rothschild-Caesarea Foundation's Returning Scientists Project at the University of Haifa. Ms. Harari-Dahan recognizes support from the University of Haifa President's Doctoral Fellowship.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Elsevier Ltd.


  • Approach
  • Avoidance
  • Motivation
  • Oxytocin
  • Social information processing
  • Social salience

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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