# What is Displacement?

Displacement is a change of position measured from a starting point. For example, walking a long distance can result in a displacement of a small amount. However, when an object falls on its side, it will move to the opposite side, resulting in a more significant displacement.

## Distance

Displacement is a vector type defined as the shortest distance from a point P’s initial to its final position. It is used in engineering to measure displacements of objects. Displacement is also called displacement length. This article explains how displacement works and gives an example of its application.

Displacement is the difference between an object’s starting and end positions. In some cases, the difference is not the same as the distance traveled. Nevertheless, displacement is an important concept to understand. When an object moves from a position to another, its velocity changes. The displacement of an object can be expressed as a vector, which is a function of time.

### Position vector

A point’s change of position is measured with a vector’s help. This change is known as a displacement. The displacement vector of a point can be represented in many ways. For example, one can represent the change in position by calculating the distance between two points in the figure. In addition, the displacement vector can also be represented by a geometrical line segment. Both of these vectors can be used to determine a point’s direction of motion.

The definition of displacement in two dimensions is the same as the definition for displacement in one dimension. The only difference is that the position vector is in three dimensions. Therefore, to calculate the displacement in a three-dimensional system, one must know the coordinate system for the point P and perform a vector addition or subtraction operation.

### Defense mechanism

Displacement is a defense mechanism that helps us avoid a stressful situation or experience. For instance, if we are stressed about our work, we will likely take our frustration out on someone else, such as our spouse or employees. Or, if we are driving, we might lose our patience with other drivers. Displacement can help us cope with stressful situations by allowing us to avoid emotional and intellectual stress.

Displacement is a natural response to negative feelings, but when we rely on this defense mechanism excessively, it can become unhelpful and even harmful. If you notice yourself using this defense mechanism, seek therapy to identify how you might be overusing it and how to challenge it.

### Examples

Some examples of displacement include blaming other people for big and small issues. For example, you may blame your partner for a messy home or daily situation. You may not even notice that you’re acting this way. Consider whether your reaction is proportionate to the triggering event when you notice yourself acting this way.

Displacement can be positive or negative. It accounts for the direction and magnitude of a change in position. If the displacement is negative, the object moves to the coordinate system’s negative side.

### Quiz

Take a Quiz about displacement to test your knowledge of displacement. The questions in this quiz are based on UNHCR’s Global Trends Report. Displacement is a measure of volume. The total distance traveled by John was 37.7 meters. He was displaced from his starting point.

How far would you move a lost dog? If lost, it would run 15 blocks north and five blocks west before reaching its home. Would you move it a third of its distance back?