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Some Comments On Conflict and Thwarting in Animals

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The aim of this paper is to present some new comments on the behaviour of animals when their drives are thwarted or in conflict. The paper has two main sections. The first reviews the types of behaviour shown in these situations, and the second discusses new aspects of Displacement Activities and their implications. The following types of behaviour are reviewed: Ambivalent Movements and Postures; Displacement Activities; "Neurosis" in Animals; "Overflow Activities"; Redirection Activities. This last term is suggested for a type of behaviour shown when two or more conflicting drives are simultaneously activated by the same stimulus complex, or perhaps when one drive is simultaneously activated and thwarted. Autochthonous activities of one of the drives are then shown, but they are directed towards an animal or object other than that releasing and "normally" directing them, (although the latter is available as a goal at the time). The discussion of new aspects of displacement activities falls under three headings. The first leads to a new hypothesis concerning the mechanism by which drive is consumed. Examples are given of displacement activities occurring during the performance of the consummatory act of a single activated drive. This suggests that a drive may be thwarted (in the sense that it is not consumed), even when the final motor pattern is being performed. Thus LORENZ'S hypothesis that drive is consumed by "discharge" through the appropriate motor centres does not fit these cases. It is suggested instead that drive may in some cases (perhaps always), be consumed only on the reception of certain "feed-backs" or "consummatory stimuli" which would "normally" result from the activity. Certain "expected" feed-backs are shown to be absent in the examples given. The adaptive nature of such a method of consuming drive is discussed. Secondly, problems concerning the nature of the "spark-over" are considered. They include: the nature of the nervous pathway; the hierarchy levels of the centres concerned ; the "distance" of the "spark-over" or the relationship of the centres concerned. An example of an unusual type of "spark-over" is discussed. Thirdly, ideas on the possible evolution of displacement activities are considered. single displacement activities, or fixed displacement activities shown invariably by a given species in a given situation, are distinguished from alternative displacement activities, where, under similar conditions, one or several possible displacement activities may be shown. It is suggested that one possibility is that single displacement activities may have been selected out from an ancestral condition of alternative displacement activities. Selective factors favouring one displacement activity over another are discussed. They include; efficiency as an "outlet" inconspicuousness, and secondary function, (signal and non-signal). Examples of non-signal secondary functions are considered.

Affiliations: 1: (Dept. of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy, Oxford


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