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In psychology, displacement is an unconscious defense mechanism whereby the mind redirects affects from an object felt to be dangerous or unacceptable to an object felt to be safe or acceptable.[1] For instance, some people punch cushions when they are angry at friends; a college student may snap at his or her roommate when upset about an exam grade.

Displacement operates in the mind unconsciously and involves emotions, ideas, or wishes being transferred from their original object to a more acceptable substitute. It is most often used to allay anxiety.

In scapegoating, aggression is displaced onto people with little or no connection with what is causing anger.

Displacement can act in a chain-reaction, with people unwittingly becoming both victims and perpetrators of displacement. For example, a man is angry with his boss, but he cannot express this so he hits his wife. The wife hits one of the children, possibly disguising this as punishment (rationalization).

Though displacement is usually used to refer to the displacement of aggressive impulses, it can also refer to the displacement of sexual impulses.

See also

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