Displacement Activity in Animal Behavior

Displacement Activity?:– What is displacement activity in animals? When an animal is in a stressful state, it would sometimes display a behavior that is totally out of context or irrelevant to the situation it finds itself in. This type of behavior is regarded as displacement activity. For instance, it can be observed that two birds that are engaged in a fighting spree may suddenly preen themselves, or even peck at the ground or get into a roosting position.Another displacement activity can be seen on a male stickleback may suddenly change into a vertical position with its head pointing downwards and then begin to dig the sand.


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The above described displacement activities may be as a result of two opposing forces—fighting and escape. It may sometimes serve the purpose of averting or diminishing open conflict. This sort of displacement activity can also be observed in humans. For instance, when we are tensed up, we may begin to walk up and down, stroke the forehead, bite the nails, scratch the ear or even stamp the feet.



Behavioral displacement activity
Various forms of displacement activity in animals

Displacement activity on the surface may seem to be an unimportant side effect of behavior. On the contrary, some zoologists agree that displacement activity is the basis for normal behavioral patterns. Most courtship behavior may be attributed to displacement activities arising from frustrations. As the male sexual motivation builds up but cannot be released or satisfied unless reciprocated by an appropriate response signal from the female, some of these sexual motivation may be channeled into other forms of behavior that constitute courtship. This therefore means that displacement activity triggers very important releasers that elicit appropriate responses in other individuals.

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Vacuum Activity on the other hand is a behavior exhibited by an animal when no sign stimulus is provided to release the appropriate behavior after its motivation builds up. This can be seen in a cock deprived of a mate where it displays to an inanimate object or a bird going through motions of nest building even when there are no nest building materials available. This phenomenon too can be observed in man!

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