Of Mice and Men

Dr. John B. Calhoun, a research psychologist of the National Institute of Mental Health, set out to prove his theory on the dangers of population overcrowding. His brand of discipline is also known as ethology because it deals with the behavior of animals. In the process Dr. Calhoun also invented the term “behavioral sink” to describe aberrant behaviors he had noticed among the rodents, a term that has now passed on to common use.

His studies on rats and mice began in rural Maryland in 1947 and were to last for 15 years. Dr. Calhoun had chosen rodent species that are aplenty in North America, and are true omnivores— would eat almost anything—, have acute hearing, are sensitive to ultrasound, and possess a highly developed olfactory sense. A 2007 study discovered too that these rodents possess meta-cognition, a mental ability previously found only in humans and some select primates.

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