Vacuum activity  

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Vacuum activities are fixed actions of animals, which are triggered by inherited behavior patterns, although the usual key stimulus is absent. This type of behaviour shows that a key stimulus is not always needed to produce a behaviour Vacuum activity is hard to define because it is never certain that no stimulus of any kind triggered the behaviour.


The term was first established by the ethologist Konrad Lorenz in the 1930s after observations of a hand-raised starling.


Squirrels that have lived in metal cages without bedding all their lives do all the actions that a wild squirrel does when burying a nut. It scratches at the metal floor as digging a hole, it acts as if it were taking a nut to the place where it scratched though there is no nut, then it pats the metal floor as if covering an imaginary buried nut.

Lorenz observed that a bird that catches flies snapped at the air when flying as if it were catching insects though there were no real insects there.

Weaverbirds go through complicated nest building behaviour when there is no nest building material present.

Richard Dawkins has characterised some aspects of religion as vacuum activity in humans. Dawkins suggests that gratitude and grudges in vacuum — that is where there is no person responsible, for example good or poor weather — leads to the vacuum activity of giving thanks or blame with no recipient, with a side effect of inventing gods as a target for the thanks or blame.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Vacuum activity" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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