Acting on anger: social anxiety modulates approach-avoidance tendencies after oxytocin administration.Psychol Sci. 2013 Aug; 24(8):1573-8.PS
Oxytocin attenuates responses to stress and threat (e.g., by fostering social approach in animals), but direct investigations of whether the hormone also facilitates approach-related social behaviors in humans are lacking. To assess approach-avoidance tendencies, we had participants respond to images of happy and angry faces with direct or averted gaze by either pulling a joystick toward themselves (approach) or pushing it away from themselves (avoidance). When given a placebo, participants' action tendencies were typical, with happy faces eliciting approach responses and angry faces eliciting avoidance responses. However, 24 IU of oxytocin moderated these tendencies, with the inclination to approach angry faces with direct gaze being negatively related to social anxiety. The results demonstrate that oxytocin facilitates approach in humans in response to social threat, which verifies its anxiolytic potential. Moreover, they underscore the moderating role of dispositional factors reported in endocrine research and their therapeutic implications.