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

Osnat Harari-Dahan, Amit Bernstein
Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews 2014, 47: 506-19

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


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