Research on defensive behaviour in mammals has in recent years focused on elicited reactions; however, organisms also make active choices when responding to danger. We propose a hierarchical taxonomy of defensive behaviour on the basis of known psychological processes. Included are three categories of reactions (reflexes, fixed reactions and habits) and three categories of goal-directed actions (direct action-outcome behaviours and actions based on implicit or explicit forecasting of outcomes). We then use this taxonomy to guide a summary of findings regarding the underlying neural circuits.
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