Oxytocin attenuates social and non-social avoidance: Re-thinking the social specificity of Oxytocin

Osnat Harari-Dahan, Amit Bernstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Re-examining decades of the social construal of Oxytocin, the General Approach-Avoidance Hypothesis of Oxytocin (GAAO) predicts that Oxytocin will modulate responding to emotionally-evocative and personally-relevant social and non-social stimuli due to its action on the neural substrate of approach and avoidance motivation. We report the first critical experimental test of GAAO predictions by means of a double-blind intra-nasal administration of Oxytocin vs. placebo in 90 healthy adults (N = 90, 50% women). As predicted, we found that among men and women for whom negative emotion (anxious arousal) is motivationally-relevant, intra-nasal administration of Oxytocin reduced behavioral avoidance of emotionally-evocative negatively-valenced social and non-social stimuli, but not closely matched emotionally-neutral stimuli. Findings cannot be explained by extant social theories of Oxytocin. We discuss the implications of the present findings for basic and translational clinical Oxytocin research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-112
Number of pages8
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Prof. Bernstein recognizes the funding support from the Israel Science Foundation. Mrs. Harari-Dahan recognizes the support from the University of Haifa President's Doctoral Fellowship Program. We want to thank Dr. Ido Lurie, Dr. Margarita Gorelik- Fad, Eyal Zur from Super Pharm Professional pharmacy, Noa Schongot, Noa Ebenstein, Chen Bar Cohen, Ortal Gretchin and Shira Talmon for their help in carrying out the study.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Elsevier Ltd


  • Anxiety sensitivity
  • Approach-avoidance
  • Emotion
  • Motivation
  • Oxytocin
  • Social

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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