Fear of mice
Fear of mice and rats is one of the most common specific phobias. It is sometimes referred to as musophobia (from Greek μῦς "mouse") or murophobia (a coinage from the taxonomic adjective "murine" for the Muridae family that encompasses mice and rats), or as suriphobia, from French souris, "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 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 food supply.
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. The standard treatment of animal phobia is systematic desensitization, and this can be done in the consulting room (in vivo), or in hypnosis (in vitro). Some clinicians use a combination of both in vivo and in vitro desensitization during treatment. It is also helpful to encourage patients to aexperience some positive associations with mice: thus, the feared stimulus is paired with the positive rather than being continuously reinforced by the negative
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.
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. It is not known why the elephants react in this way, but there are several theories. Regardless, the myth of elephantine murophobia remains the basis of various jokes and metaphors.
In the Malay Archipelago, there is the fables of "Sang Kancil", where in one fable, tells the story about a meeting among all animals to choose a king among them. In short, the elephant, deer, tiger and mouse offered themselves to be elected. It was decided that they have a contest between them. At the end, there was a duel between the mouse and the elephant. The mouse tried to beat and bite at the elephant but the elephant's hide was thick. Because the elephant thought he was strong, so he just sat and laughed at the mouse. The mouse got angry and finally he climbed into the elephant's ear. The elephant got afraid and stomped on his feet. The mouse then got afraid and bit the elephant's eardrum as hard as he could. The elephant was in great pain and ran around and hit all the tree trunks. Finally, the elephant admitted defeat and the mouse was elected as king.
- Kraft D & Kraft T (2010). Use of in vivo and in vitro desensitization in the treatment of mouse phobia: review and case study. Contemporary Hypnosis, 27 (3): 184-194.
- Gertrude of Nivelles