displacement-activity

displacement activity

noun Animal Behavior.
a behavior performed out of its usual context and apparently irrelevant to the prevailing situation, as eating when an unknown individual approaches, tending to occur when appropiate behaviors, as attacking or fleeing, are in conflict or obstructed.

Origin:
1945–50

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displacement activity
 
n
1.  psychol behaviour that occurs typically when there is a conflict between motives and that has no relevance to either motive, e.g. head scratching
2.  zoology the substitution of a pattern of animal behaviour that is different from behaviour relevant to the situation, e.g. preening at an apparently inappropriate time

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