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Behav Processes. 2008 Sep;79(1):48-58. doi: 10.1016/j.beproc.2008.05.001. Epub 2008 May 13.

Abnormal patterns of displacement activities: a review and reinterpretation.

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Cognitive Science Department (B 32), University of Liège, Liège, Belgium. <>


A series of important theoretical contributions flourished in the years 1950-1970 about displacement activities -- those 'out-of-context' actions expressed by organisms in stressful situations. Nothing really new has appeared thereafter. Although the models address different issues, such as causal factors of displacement, it appears obvious that they do not provide a unified (coherent) approach; they often explain the same phenomena using very different means and turn out to be contradictory on several points. In addition, some problems currently remain unsolved, especially concerning the fact that displacement activities exhibit 'abnormalities' of expression in comparison with the same activities performed in usual context. Each model is here described and criticized in order to evaluate its explanatory power and allow the identification of specific limits. A new, integrative model -- the Anticipatory Dynamics Model (or ADM) -- then attempts to overcome the failures of previous models. The ADM suggests that abnormal patterns of displacement activities result from attentional interference caused by a thwarting experience or conflicting motivations. At least one theoretical prediction of the ADM can be differentiated from that of any other model.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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