Flight and Submissive Behavior

Overview and Meaning

Flight and Submissive behaviors function to avoid or end an agonistic interaction without injury or death.  


Flight and Submissive behaviors are a form of agonistic interaction, reflecting a behavior chain of individual goal-directed behaviors:

  1. Submissive Upright
  2. Fleeing
  3. Freeze
  4. Chase


Agonistic Interactions


Flight and submissive behavior are seen in three distinct contexts, and have quite different meanings, both to the mouse, and for the observer's correct interpretation of the behaviors: 

  1. In response to threat behavior an animal may attempt to flee and may or may not be pursued (chase behavior) by the animal performing the threat behavior. Alternatively an animal may perform submissive behaviors immediately. In either case the agonistic interactions are terminated immediately, and the animal fleeing or submitting has indicated it's subordinate dominance status to the animal performing the threat behavior. Such interactions is classified as mediated aggression.
  2. In contrast, if an animal performs retaliation behavior it is challenging the dominance of an animal performing a threat. The resulting escalated aggression is also terminated by flight and submissive behavior. However the meaning is quite different - indicating which mouse has lost the particular fight, not necessarily which mouse is dominant in a stable uncontested hierarchy.  
  3. Fleeing and withdrawal can also occur in response to any threatening stimulus, be it social, predatory (e.g. when mice flee from human handlers), or abiotic (e.g. when mice withdraw from a brightly lit open space). Fleeing and withdrawal are viewed as evidence of aversion, anxiety, and/or fear.