Phase shifts in free-running activity rhythms of male golden hamsters, Mesocricetus auratus, often occur when they establish a new territory and home after a cage change. Similar shifts also often occur after pairs of animals interact with each other for half an hour. When these events take place during the middle of the hamsters' subjective day, they produce phase advances: when late in the subjective night, they produce phase delays. Repeated social interactions at the same time of day can entrain activity rhythms in a way consistent with the shape of the phase response curves. Not all individuals become entrained, as is predictable from the modest amplitude of the phase response curve. The effects of social interactions and of other disturbances may be mediated through an oscillator phased by general arousal. The present findings have implications for the interpretation of drug-induced changes in biological rhythms.