The Neural Mechanisms of Behavioral Inhibition



Unfamiliar people, places, and objects often elicit wariness and distress in behaviorally inhibited infants. As behaviorally inhibited infants mature through childhood and become adolescents, peer-based social situations become the driving source of this wariness. The conflict between a desire for positive social interactions and fear of negative evaluation interferes with one of the primary “jobs” of adolescence: learning to successfully navigate an increasingly complex social world. Neural networks involved in social information processing, social learning, and social competence contribute to the maladaptive approach and avoidance response patterns and tendencies associated with behavioral inhibition. In the present chapter, we review the neural networks involved in social competence and social cognition, discuss key links between altered neural function and social cognition associated with behavioral inhibition, and highlight gaps in the field. Finally, we propose future directions to advance our understanding of the neural mechanisms that underlie behaviors and cognition elicited in novel social contexts for behaviorally inhibited youth.


Temperament Brain function Social learning Social competence Psychopathology 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyTemple UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Human Ecology and Center for Mind and BrainUniversity of California DavisDavisUSA

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