Display and Displacement Behavior in Animals, Biology tutorial


Displacement behavior is generally thought of as self-grooming, touching or scratching, that is displayed if an animal has a conflict among two drives, such as the wish to approach an object, whereas at the same time being afraid of that object. By the fall of drive theory into disfavor, animal behaviorist's paid minute attention to displacement behavior till Maestripieri et al. (1992) pointed out that displacement behavior may be a good assessment of anxiety levels.

Since then a sizeable literature computing the efficiency of displacement behavior measures (as well termed as self directed behavior, or SDB) as indicators of the anxiety has grown. Specifically attention has been paid to primates, comprising humans. Measures of displacement behavior, for illustration, have been applied in the psychiatric studies of anxiety.

Castles et al (1999) discovered that SDB's risen in wild olive baboons between based on whether the nearby animal (that is, to the animal being watched) was dominant or not. Dominant animals caused in rise in self directed behaviors through 40 %, pointing out a higher level of social anxiety caused due to the proximity of a dominant animal.

Chimpanzees as well show higher levels of SDB's in anxiety inducing situations. Baker and Aureli (1997) discover, in captive chimps, that vocalizations from animals in neighboring cages stimulated more SDB's if the chimps were housed in groups. Socially isolated chimps, though, didn't respond with SDB's to vocalizations coming from the neighboring cages. The vocalizations might imply to the chimps that an attack is imminent.

Baker and Aureli (1997) propose that the isolated animals understand that no other chimps are in their cage, and as a result they feel safe even when hearing the vocalizations. Leavens et al. (2001) gave captive chimps problems of varying complexity to resolve. If their chimps began with a simple problem and then progressed to more hard problems they displayed more SDB's when confronted by the hard problems. Chimps who just received difficult problems didn't display more SDB's. Positive auditory reinforcement throughout the problem decreased SDB's.

Displacement activities and arousal:

In the year 1940 Tinbergen and Kortlandt separately drew attention to a behavioral phenomenon that has since been termed as displacement activity and has received a fine deal of attention. However no binding rules exist by which displacement behavior can be recognized, the word is applied to the behavior patterns that appear to be out of context by the behavior that closely precedes or follows them either in the sense that they don't seem functionally integrated by the preceding or following behavior or that they take place in situations in which causal factors generally responsible for them appear to be absent or at least weak compared with such finding out the behavioral envelope.

Displacement activities in animals:

Displacement activities take place in three conditions:  

i) Conflict

ii) Frustration of consummator acts 

iii) Physical thwarting of performance

Some of the theories have been put forward to describe the causal method involved. A diversity of behavior prototypes have been reported as displacement activities, even in the single species, however this variety requires revision.

Monographic treatments of the behavior of any one species generally point out just two or three activities which according to the judgment of the observer take place generally as displacement. None of the theories on displacement activities provides cogent reasons why specific behavior patterns must be more common than others as displacement activities, apart from stating that the causal agents that generally elicit them in non-displacement conditions can as well be presumed to be present, if only weakly, in the displacement context, or remarking that such patterns are proponent in the repertoire of the animal.

In the way of a systematic exploration of the forebrain and brainstem of hearing and lesser black-backed gulls by electrical stimulation, information was acquired which might bear on this specific issue. The gulls by means of chronically implanted mono-polar electrodes were stimulated by a sine current at 50 c/s ranging between 10 and 150 µ amp root mean square current, in repeated trains lasting 30 sec-5 min for some testing sessions, over 2 or more months. The electrode tip positions were checked histological.

A great diversity of responses have been acquired, however here we will just consider a behavioral syndrome that is characterized through preening and staring down and more seldom by pecking,  squatting, yawning, relaxation and infrequent sleep. We observed that several, and at times all, such component patterns can frequently be elicited from single loci having the similar stimulation strength generally less than 50 µamp, either as an outcome of a single stimulation train or more often in the course of some consecutive trains.

Examples of displacement behavior in animals:

Displacement behavior in dog:

There are fundamentally two kinds of displacement behaviors: those which are self-directed somewhat the dog does to himself, and those which are re-directed to some external. A general illustration of a self-directed displacement behavior in dogs is self-grooming, most frequently licking the genital area. The other common self-directed behavior is yawning.

General illustrations of re-directed displacement behaviors are finding, picking up and carrying a toy, circling, barking, grazing grass and gulping water as the reader explains. In a multi-dog household, re-directed behavior frequently takes the form of one dog jumping onto and engaging in play by the other dog, grabbing, wrestling and the similar. 

This is what displacement behaviors are; now to the big question of why dogs and other animals (comprising us) connect in them. 

Displacement behavior takes place at times of emotional conflict, serving up as an outlet to dissipate energy. By employing the reader's question for instance, the behaviors which are in conflict have to do with excitement and expression of the greeting behavior. 

Let us survey what normal greeting behavior is, and why a dog might encompass conflicting emotions concerning it:

For a dog, greeting comprises two main areas and behaviors: licking the mouth of the returning pack member (or visitor), and sniffing the genital area. Whereas both these behaviors are normal for dogs, most of us humans discourage these expressions of friendship. 

Jump up on us in greeting is because of the reason that the dog is trying to lick us around the mouth. As we are upright instead of on all fours, dogs cannot reach our mouths without jumping up. Most of us do not wish our dogs to jump on us, thus we discourage this normal dog behavior. In most of the cases, this discouragement is a verbal reprimand or scolding, and at times comprises some form of physical punishment like applying a knee to the dog's chest. Embarrassing sniffing behavior, and also, is most frequently strongly reproached.

Just as significantly, chastising the dog for what is normal doesn't give an alternative outlet for the energy of this behavior. For illustration, teaching the dog to sit or get a toy and carry it around when somebody comes to the door makes an alternative behavior outlet for his energy. Displacement behavior takes place in the absence of learning a positively reinforced alternative behavior to change his normal greeting behavior. 

Displacement behavior in cat:

In the cat Parmeggiani stimulated some dissimilar and separate regions of the forebrain and brainstem and obtained a behavioral complex comprising of grooming, sniffing, yawning, lying down, curling up, dozing and sleeping. He highlights that this behavior is normal in an unstimulated cats. Rowland and Gluck present several proofs that in some conditioning procedure grooming substituted the synchronization of the electroencephalogram illustrated by sleeping cats when those were tested awake. Again, Leyhausen lists grooming, sniffing and lying down as displacement behavior for the cat.

The facts propose that grooming or preening and some other movements are highly controlled through neurophysiologic mechanisms that are as well responsible, for de-arousal and sleep. On the other hand they are frequently comprised in displacement behavior. There is little doubt, though, that the behavioral conditions loading to displacement, that is, conflict, frustration and thwarting, are efficient in increasing arousal. It is proposed that the occurrence of at least some displacement actions is the reflexion of a homeostatic procedure operating towards cancelling the arousal increment so generated, via the activation of an arousal inhibiting system. The existence of arousal homeostasis has been proposed by Borlyne, who as well marshals supporting empirical proof. Such regulation comes out logically necessary when arousal is associated by the rate at which information is handled and when the nervous system is considered as a communication channel of the restricted and specific capacity for maximum efficiency the information handling rate should be hold in some limits.

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