The social interaction test of anxiety was developed 25 years ago to provide an ethologically based test that was sensitive to both anxiolytic and anxiogenic effects. It is sensitive to a number of environmental and physiological factors that can affect anxiety. It has detected anxiogenic effects of peptides such as corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) and adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), and anxiolytic effects of neuropeptide Y and substance P receptor antagonists. It has successfully identified neuropharmacological sites of action of anxiogenic compounds and drug withdrawal. Effects of compounds acting on the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) systems have been extensively investigated after both systemic administration and microinjection into specific brain regions. The use of this test has, thus, played a crucial role in unravelling the neural basis of anxiety. It is hoped that in the next 25 years, the test will play a crucial role in determining the genetic basis of anxiety disorders.