If you’ve ever watched an episode of the Three Stooges, you’ve witnessed a form of redirected aggression. Curly does something to Moe, then Moe subsequently slaps Larry or physically strikes him in another manner. In social animals, redirected aggression is not that uncommon. In fact, in a recent study by some Japanese researchers, the species Julidochromis regani were studied to investigate the role of such aggression in their social order. The prevailing theories assert that redirected aggression is primarily a conflict management tactic.
Testing several hypothesis, the researchers discovered that the regani in the study do in fact engage in redirected aggression. Furthermore, they concluded that such aggression serves to divert the original aggressors attention to another uninvolved conspecific. However, that finding was dependent upon the duration of the original aggression and the mix of gender involved, suggesting substantial complexity in the behavior.
If you have access to scholarly articles, you can find the study here – http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/285/1871/20172681.
Reference: Ito, M. H., Yamaguchi, M., and Kutsukake, N. (2018), Redirected aggression as a conflict management tactic in the social cichlid fish Julidochromis regani. Proc. R. Soc. B 285, doi:10.1098/rspb.2017.2681