The animal and human neuroendocrinology of social cognition, motivation and behavior

Nat Neurosci. 2012 Apr 15;15(5):681-8. doi: 10.1038/nn.3084.


Extensive animal and recent human research have helped inform neuroendocrinological models of social cognition, motivation and behavior. In this review, we first summarize important findings regarding oxytocin, arginine vasopressin and testosterone in the domains of affiliation, social cognition, aggression and stress/anxiety. We then suggest ways in which human research can continue to profit from animal research, particularly by exploring the interactive nature of neuromodulatory effects at neurochemical, organismic and contextual levels. We further propose methods inspired by the animal literature for the ecologically valid assessment of affiliative behavior in humans. We conclude with suggestions for how human research could advance by directly assessing specific social cognitive and motivational mechanisms as intermediate variables. We advocate a more comprehensive look at the distinct networks identified by social neuroscience and the importance of a motivational state, in addition to approach and avoidance, associated with quiescence and homeostatic regulation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arginine Vasopressin / metabolism
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Motivation / physiology*
  • Neuroendocrinology*
  • Social Behavior*
  • Vasopressins / metabolism


  • Vasopressins
  • Arginine Vasopressin