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Author Topic: Could this explain the stereotype of women being scared of mice?  (Read 2838 times)

Online evan_au

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We all know the stereotype of a woman standing on a chair, scared of a mouse, and a male wonders what all the fuss is about, because mice have never bothered him...

Researchers have discovered that mice are afraid of human males, but not afraid of human females. So men would rarely see a mouse, because the mice would try to escape from men, but mice would be quite happy to run right up to a woman.

Does this tell us something about both mice and men?

http://www.sciencefriday.com/segment/05/02/2014/male-researchers-may-increase-stress-in-lab-mice.html


 

Offline CliffordK

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Most interesting, although the results would definitely have to be replicated. 

Here is the article in case you are interested.

Lab rats and mice are often handled a lot by various lab techs and can be quite docile and used to being handled.  They may not represent the wild population. However, there may be a bias towards the one that delivers their food.  The article does indicate that they tried to control for care givers, as well as the person giving the injection of a painful stimulus.  How far back did they go?  Did they start at birth?  One or two generations further back?  Did they have a single source of mice?

This makes me wonder about the male dominated "hunter-gatherer" society.  What about other animals such as deer? 

A couple of days ago I was shopping and a woman commented that her Chihuahua only liked women, and not men....  a statement that I could not resist.  So, the first thing I did was walk over to pet it.  So, I offered it my hand, it smelled the hand, then allowed some petting on the head (and I still have all my fingers).  Not necessarily the friendliest greeting, but there was no indication of animosity towards me, nor did it try to escape.

Anyway, I have no doubt that many animals are extremely sensitive to "friend vs foe", and the decision may be influenced by a number of different factors.  Dogs can certainly be more accepting of one person vs another.

Perhaps diet?  Did the men in the experiment have a richer meat diet, while the women ate more veggies?
 

Offline cheryl j

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But I've always liked mice, since I was a kid. They're adorable. The only thing that's a bit unpleasant is mouse poop in the silverware drawer. I feel bad if I have to trap and kill one.
 

Offline Bored chemist

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Either there are two independent stereotypes, or spiders must be scared of men, but not women.
 

Offline menageriemanor

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Can't comment on mice, but as far as the dog behaviour goes, most dogs can pick up attitude of owner to person approaching. Dogs who are MOST obsessed with owner's attitude are usually 'lap dogs'.  Often child substitutes, when owned by women, especially when a single dog household, the dogs pick up cues that most people don't realise they give. The SLIGHTEST tightening of fingers, a particular way of being held, if dog is in owner's arms, the tightening of leash, the tone of voice, ALL tell a deeply bonded dog that their IMPORTANT HUMAN OTHER is showing signs of anxiety, so the little/big dog attempts to protect or warn off the approach. The woman may have no idea at all, of the cues she gives & people don't always use all or same cues possible.  Plus, when the little dog reacts by snapping, the first thing that happens, is it is hugged closer, patted, soothed, in effect, rewarding the defensive behaviour. This is usually done with little dogs, while large dogs earn displeasure, which is why you are far more likely to be bitten by a maltese than a rotty. 

Also, the act of comforting is, to a dog, acknowledgement that it's defensiveness was the correct action. If a dog is reactive to something & plays up, another dog will effectively give it a scornful look.  It only comforts, if it is worried, too. So in behaving as we would, to a child, & comforting, we are, to a dog, confirming the worry of a situation. Oh, and as with all animals, you don't look deeply into it's eyes, don't stare. That is dominant aggressive basics. May as well act out serial killer scenes in puppy mills. Perhaps you avoided eye contact, whilst men in general weren't aware or didn't really care?

If you were unusually well accepted, it may be that you had charmed the lady concerned & lessened her usual cues. She may have been thinking, "What a lovely young man. His mother must be so proud", or she may have thought you very attractive, or you may have been a reminder of her father/brother or you may have been as nonthreatening as a woman, to her, for any number of reasons. 

You may have smelt of a recently patted undesexed bitch/on heat or an old/ill dog, or a cat, or pigeons, or steak & kidney pudding & interested the dog enough to want to keep contact with you, to read your smells.

As to mice, one suggestion is that women TEND to use perfumed, possibly stronger smelling soaps? Or skin cream, or nail polish, tho I would think the last unlikely in labs? Were those possibilities looked at?  Even the size of hand might slightly increase alarm?
 
 

Offline CliffordK

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Yes, the Clever Hans (counting horse) phenomena is well documented.

As far as my approach to strange dogs, the first thing I do is to offer my open hand to them to sniff, and while I may be acutely aware of their actions, I wouldn't react until they would make an aggressive action towards myself.  The event I mentioned in the store, the Chihuahua was riding in in a basket on a stroller.   I had overheard a discussion with the checker about "men", and hadn't particularly interacted with the owner before approaching her dog, although she obviously was right there and watching me.

As far as the mouse experiment, they were able to replicate the results with worn T-Shirts.  Nonetheless, there may be deodorants, perfumes, and etc that the women might be using which might even mask their smell somewhat, I don't remember any comments on those.  I think they chose T-Shirts after sleeping in them.  Perhaps they could have gotten a more potent musk smell after a couple of hours at the gym.

The response in the mice was a decreased response to pain when around men, but also an increased temperature, indicating a "fight or flight" situation.
 

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