Can social interaction be used to measure anxiety?

Br J Pharmacol. 1978 Jan;62(1):19-24. doi: 10.1111/j.1476-5381.1978.tb07001.x.


1 Pairs of male rats were placed in a test box for 10 min and the time they spent in active social interaction was scored. Maximum active interaction was found when the rats were tested under low light in a box with which they were familiar. When the light level was increased or when the box was unfamiliar active social interaction decreased. 2 Exploration (time spent sniffing objects) decreased in the same way in relation to test conditions as did social interaction. As these decreased, defecation, and freezing increased. 3 Anosmic controls showed that the decrease in social interaction across test conditions could not be attributed to olfactory changes in the partner. 4 Chlordiazepoxide (5 mg/kg) given chronically prevented or significantly reduced the decrease in social interaction that occurred in undrugged rats as the light level or the unfamiliarity of the test box was increased. Controls showed that this effect could not be entirely attributed to chlordiazepoxide acting selectively to increase low levels of responding. 5 The effect of chronic chlordiazepoxide contrasts with its action when given acutely; in the latter case it has only sedative effects. 6 Whether this test can be used as an animal model of anxiety is discussed and this test is compared with existing tests of anxiety.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Chlordiazepoxide / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Social Behavior* / drug effects
  • Time Factors


  • Chlordiazepoxide