Kaldewaij, R., Koch, S. B., Volman, I., Toni, I., & Roelofs, K. (2016). On the Control of Social Approach–Avoidance Behavior: Neural and Endocrine Mechanisms.
The ability to control our automatic action tendencies is crucial for adequate social interactions. Emotional events trigger automatic approach and avoidance tendencies. Although these actions may be generally adaptive, the capacity to override these emotional reactions may be key to flexible behavior during social interaction. The present chapter provides a review of the neuroendocrine mechanisms underlying this ability and their relation to social psychopathologies. Aberrant social behavior, such as observed in social anxiety or psychopathy, is marked by abnormalities in approach-avoidance tendencies and the ability to control them. Key neural regions involved in the regulation of approach-avoidance behavior are the amygdala, widely implicated in automatic emotional processing, and the anterior prefrontal cortex, which exerts control over the amygdala. Hormones, especially testosterone and cortisol, have been shown to affect approach-avoidance behavior and the associated neural mechanisms. The present chapter also discusses ways to directly influence social approach and avoidance behavior and will end with a research agenda to further advance this important research field. Control over approach-avoidance tendencies may serve as an exemplar of emotional action regulation and might have a great value in understanding the underlying mechanisms of the development of affective disorders.