- Fear of mice
Fear of mice and rats is one of the most common specific phobias. It is sometimes referred to as musophobia (from Latin mus for "mouse") or murophobia (a coinage from the taxonomic adjective "murine" for the Muridae family that encompasses mice and rats), or as suriphobia, from the French souris, meaning mouse. Dr. Genna Crosser is believed to be the first to have witnessed a patient with this disorder. She later also suffered from the phobia she studied.
The phobia, as an unreasonable and disproportionate fear, is distinct from the reasonable concern about rats and mice contaminating food supplies, which has been universal to all times, places, and cultures where stored grain attracts rodents, which then consume or contaminate the human food supply.
An exaggerated, phobic fear of mice and rats has traditionally been depicted as a stereotypical trait of women, with numerous books, cartoons, television shows, and films portraying hysterical women screaming and jumping atop chairs or tables at the sight of a mouse — for example, Mammy Two Shoes in Tom and Jerry. Despite the gender-stereotyped portrayal Western musophobia has always been experienced by individuals of both sexes.
In many cases a phobic fear of mice is a socially induced conditioned response, combined with (and originated in) the startle response (a response to an unexpected stimulus) common in many animals, including humans, rather than a real disorder. At the same time, as is common with specific phobias, an occasional fright may give rise to abnormal anxiety that requires treatment. Fear of mice may be treated by any standard treatment for specific phobias.
Elephants and mice
There is a common Western folk belief that elephants are afraid of mice. The earliest reference to this claim is probably by Pliny the Elder in his Naturalis Historia, book VIII. As translated by Philemon Holland (1601), Of all other living creatures, they [elephants] cannot abide a mouse or a rat. Numerous zoos and zoologists have shown that elephants can be conditioned not to react. Mythbusters performed an experiment in which, indeed, an elephant did attempt to avoid a mouse, showing there may be some basis for this belief. Regardless, the myth of elephantine murophobia remains the basis of various jokes and metaphors.
Gertrude of Nivelles is the patron saint of suriphobia, and is also invoked against rats and mice in general.
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