Some Posts About Displacement

Animals, People, and Displacement Behaviors

If eating makes us feel safe, then in an effort to erase our bad feelings, we can eat until it turns into something that looks very much like an addiction. This post also talks about the difficulty of separating apparent displacement activity from normal life activities in the animal kingdom. How do we know that other creatures perceive and react to stimuli in ways that correspond to human reactions?

Displacement Activities in Animals and Humans

There are behaviors that animals and people might engage in to relieve the discomfort of a threat, whether physical or intangible. What do they have in common? Apparently, the tendency to engage in comfort eating. A dog trainer looks at some of the displacement behaviors that her canine clients might engage in.

Some experts place a great deal of credence in conclusions they have drawn from studying dogs. However, the case around canines could be argued. They all started as wolves, and they have all been purposefully bred, for hundreds of generations, to keep the traits that please humans (for whatever purpose) and to diminish the natural traits that humans do not find useful or attractive. So, how much of what we learn by observing dogs can honestly be extrapolated to any meaningful knowledge about human behavior?

Responses to Perceived Threat

There are reasons to think that ideas about displacement activities in dogs are not quite relevant to humans. Well then, how about wild chimpanzees? What can be learned from them about human psychology, addiction-proneness, or anything else?
This post also talks about yet another threat response — freeze. It is similar to another recognized displacement behavior, fainting, except the person is still conscious, although the state of that consciousness is altered.

Displacement Behavior and the Many Related Fs

Can a bee have a nervous breakdown? Is an octopus capable of experiencing anxiety, and if so, how does it manifest? The F’s referenced in the title are fight, flee, freeze, feed, fornicate, fool around, fidget (which seems pretty close to fooling around), and faint (which at first glance could be just a more intense form of freezing, but is probably something entirely different.) The problem is that, except with well-studied species like canines, humans just do not know enough about normal animal behavior to make assumptions about their motivations and intentions.

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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