A Critical Review of the Rodent Social Release Paradigm: Empathy or Social Reinforcement

Magnus H. Blystad


Research on social animal behavior is growing within social neuroscience. Basic research on behavioral processes in animals has always been the forte of behavior analysis, but the collaboration and crossover between the fields are minimal. This is illustrated with the well-established rodent social-release paradigm, which features two conflicting explanations: empathic motivations from social neuroscience, and social reinforcement from a behaviorist point of view. A three-term contingency analysis identifies areas within the studies of social release where more research is needed, and which is neutral regarding explanatory causes. This analysis allows for the integration of data from both the empathy and the social reinforcement point of view. This neutrality opens the way for collaborations and invites joint efforts to study and increase understanding of different variables in the rodent social-release paradigm.


Social Neuroscience, three-term contingency, prosociality, animal models, rat

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5514/rmac.v45.i2.75563

Editor in Chief:

Dr. Carlos J. Flores-Aguirre


ISSN: 0185-4534

ISSN Electrónico: 2007-0802